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A painter, writer, broadcaster and teacher, Canney was born in Falmouth and spent much of his artistic career in Cornwall. He became an important figure in the artistic life of St Ives in the 1950s and 1960s. After war service he studied at the Goldsmiths College of Art, 1947-51. He was appointed Curator of the Newlyn Art Gallery (1956-1965), and over the years met and became friends with virtually all the artists later to become known as the St Ives School (Nicholson, Hepworth, Lanyon, Hilton, Wells, Wynter and others). Canney exhibited widely in group exhibitions in Britain and abroad, from the 1950s onwards. His later one-man exhibitions included Bristol University, 1982; Newlyn Orion Gallery, 1983; and The Belgrave Gallery, London, 1990. Since his death Canney has become the subject of increasing critical attention and acclaim. Katharine House Gallery held an exhibition of his work in 2005 and The Fine Art Society followed in 2007 with Michael Canney's 'Oils, Alkyds, and Reliefs' .