Michael Pisko was a member of the Lethbridge Sketch Club and frequently, along with other men in the club, painted with the Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson. Jackson visited Lethbridge often, since his brother Ernest owned a business there. As well as being strong pieces in their own right, Pisko’s art offers clear evidence of Jackson’s influence, which makes it interesting historically, particularly within the Alberta context. Pisko, under the auspices of the Alberta Society of Artists (ASA), studied with Marion Nicoll and Bart Pragnell. He spent three summers at the Banff School of Fine Art. He considered Henry G. Glyde as a major influence on his work and is reported to have taken all classes taught by Glyde in Lethbridge.
Pisko was born in Lethbridge, Alberta in 1913. He lived there all of his life except during his time as a student at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and Art (Calgary, 1931-3). He owned City Sign Co. in Lethbridge and painted in his spare time. Pisko was an enthusiastic founding member of the Alberta Society of Artists (beginning in 1947, he eventually obtained Life membership) and often printed the title page for the society’s newsletter Highlights.
Pisko stated, during an interview with Alberta Culture in 1972:
My aim is to depict the local landscape and to paint the character of the country. I strive for strong contrast of color, light and shade, and accented line and pattern. Having lived all my life in southern Alberta, I feel it is a part of me and I should paint it as it has affected me.
He exhibited regularly with the Lethbridge Sketch Club from 1936-66 and with the Alberta Society of Artists (1947). Pisko had solo exhibitions at the Bowman Arts Centre (1990) and at the Hilton Hotel, Edmonton (1994). The Michael Pisko Memorial Award was established at the University of Lethbridge in 2000 by the artist’s widow and the Alberta Society of Artists.
Public Collections: Alberta Foundation for the Arts Collection, Sir Alexander Galt Museum (Lethbridge), University of Lethbridge Collection.
• Alberta Society of Artists, The First Seventy Years by Kathy E. Zimon University of Calgary Press, 2000
• The Way We Were Lethbridge Herald, 1996
• Art Walk dedicated to Michael Pisko Lethbridge Herald, 1995
• Michael Pisko to Alberta Culture Visual Arts, 24 August 1972, Artists’ Files, Beaver House.