Joseph Purcell

Joseph Purcell (1927-2017)

Born in Halifax in 1927, Joseph received his art training at the Nova Scotia College of Art. He painted with absolute passion from his earliest childhood into his ninetieth year. Joseph’s chosen mediums were watercolor and oil. He focused his art on eastcoast land and seascapes, with strong draftsmanship and dramatic use of light and composition. In his landscapes and seascapes Joseph devoted his full effort to an art that reflects the authentic atlantic scene. He developed his unique style which may be described as mood-rich and representational. 

Joseph's work has hung in galleries across Canada, the United States and England. His murals adorn numerous public buildings, historic churches and naval establishments in Canada. His work is in the collection of museums including the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Museum of Industry in Stellarton, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, and the National Gallery in Ottawa.

Joseph won national awards, completed substantial commissions, and exhibited his work widely in one-man and group shows. At the age of eighteen he completed a commission of three eighteen-foot murals for Canadian National Railway. He was also chosen to interpret Halifax for the Seagram's Collection, "Cities of Canada," which toured major capital cities of the world. Joseph finished a major collection of large oil paintings from his on site oil sketches of Nova Scotian gold mines; named "The Seabright Collection", these now hang at the Museum of Industry in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. Before his twenties, Joseph was privileged to travel the Grand Banks of Newfoundland with the fishermen of Lunenburg, painting them at work on schooners and trawlers. He remained captivated by the sea, ships and the spirit that made the atlantic fisheries flourish. In his later years, Joseph was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal for lifetime achievement. Despite suffering two major strokes late in life, he recovered, and continued to paint daily with dedication for ten more years. In 2017 at age 90, he passed away peacefully at home with his family.

Browse Joseph's Art:


Original Watercolour Paintings

Original Oil Paintings 


Joseph with charcoal in hand with his mother and father. Even as a very young boy Joseph showed considerable artistic promise. His parents supported his passion for art and would pin up large pieces of newsprint on the kitchen wall so Joseph could sketch. Moreover, his teachers in elementary school would allow him to remain inside at recess where he would fill the chalkboards with sketches. When the children would return they would always admire his work. 

 Joseph working at his easel in 1944, age 17. 

Joseph at age 18 at Portuguese Cove, in front of a mock up of one of his first major mural commissions for The Nova Scotian Hotel. 

Joseph as a young man, contemplating his next stroke at the easel

Joseph sketching at Stonehurst, Nova Scotia.

1962, Joseph painting a watercolour of Bluerocks with the ovens in the background. 









1984, Joseph in front of one of his famous schooner scenes at the fisheries exhibition. 


Jospeh giving a painting lesson 

Joseph at his easel in his Lunenburg Studio.

Joseph and wife Tela at the Purcell Art Gallery, Early 2000.

Joseph laying in a large watercolour on site in the Margaree Valley, Cape Breton. 

Jospeh at age 90, painting a Grand Banks schooner scene from his Lunenburg painting studio.