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Behind the mask: Ken Danby's At the Crease resonates with Canadians, whether they're hockey fans or not.


(1) At the Crease is an egg tempera painting. The process involves mixing dry powdered pigment with yolk thinned with distilled water to create a paste. Used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, it was largely displaced by oils in the fifteenth century.

(2) Ken Danby began working in egg tempera in 1962 after being inspired by the works of illustrator Andrew Wyeth.

(3) The first goalie to don a face mask in an NHL game was Clint Benedict in 1930, but he gave up wearing it after a few matches because it obscured his vision. Twenty-nine years later, Montreal Canadiens netminder Jacques plante wore a mask after getting hit in the face with a puck, launching the modern age of masked goalies.

(4) Danby was "haunted" by the image of masked goalies and felt compelled to paint one. At the Crease sold immediately in 1972 to a private collector. Made into a reproduction print in 1973, it has since sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide.

(5) This plain white mask is typical of those worn in the 1960s. In later years, goalies began to decorate their masks with outlandish illustrations in an effort to intimidate opponents or to express themselves.

(6) Danby purposely painted his goalie with an ambiguous jersey. His objective was to evoke a feeling of confrontation in viewers.

(7) Many viewers have tried to identify the masked man. Popular guesses include Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens, and the Chicago Blackhawks" Tony Esposito. Danby, who died in 2007, refused to reveal the secret.

(8) The painting has strong compositional linear elements, including the posts, the hockey stick, the edges of boards and the painted lines. The circular structure of the crouching goalie and curve of the stick direct the eye around the painting, helping to cement its place as an iconic sports image.

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Title Annotation:BRUSH STROKES
Publication:Canada's History
Date:Aug 1, 2010
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