The Man Who Started It All 45 Years Ago
John Canning is a principal & founder of John Canning & Co. John’s arrival from Scotland coincided with the beginning of the architecture preservation movement here in the US. He brought with him an education in art history and decorative trades combined with a 5-year apprenticeship working under the direction of master painters on the restoration of ecclesiastical decoration in centuries-old European churches. He attended the Glasgow Stow College of Building, the Scottish Decorative Trades Institute, and Glasgow School of Art. He earned the prestigious London City & Guilds certificate and served his apprenticeship as a church decorator in U.K.
Fifty years later, John is an industry-recognized authority on all periods of historic decorative arts, the methods and materials used during those periods, and the ethical conservation and restoration of historic interiors. He is a generous collaborator, gladly sharing his knowledge by always providing the “why” behind the “what” of his recommendations. Forty-Five years ago, in January 1976, he founded his own company which today goes by the name John Canning & Co. He and his company are guided by the principle “do no harm” and advance that principle by providing treatments that are reversible and supplying owners with thorough documentation of research, conditions, actions taken, and materials used.
John has guided owners and architects how historic finishes can be saved and preserved for the future. He has been able to show them the value of what they have even when they were unaware. He views himself as the steward of the building when it’s in his hands. Albeit for a short period of time – he takes it most seriously.
His company’s impeccable work has been recognized for restoration excellence with numerous industry awards, including the Arthur Ross Award, multiple Bullfinch Awards, the Trumbauer Award, and the Stanford White Award all from the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA). He has been recognized personally for his contributions to the preservation of our built environment. John was awarded the Connecticut’s Governor’s Medal for Art and Architecture, is a Professional Associate Member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), and he was inducted into the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as an Honorary Member- the only tradesman to be so honored.
John is one of ten artisans featured in PBS’s Good work: Masters of Building Arts, celebrating craftmanship and the artisans who create & preserve our iconic buildings. He is one of the pre-eminent practitioners in the field of decorative painting. An acknowledged master of the arts of restoration, replication, and preservation, he has built his reputation upon formal training and inherent skill. With more than 45 years’ experience, he has successfully completed a multitude of preservation projects throughout the country for national historic landmarks, universities, and state capitols. He has worked on hundreds if not well over a thousand national registered landmark buildings. A few of the projects include the state capitols of Connecticut, Michigan, and Virginia, Grand Central Terminal, Boston Public Library, Boston’s Trinity Church, Mark Twain Museum, Yale University, and the Philadelphia Academy of Music.
John is highly skilled in all periods and techniques of the decorative arts (i.e., graining, marbling, stenciling, trompe l’oeil, gilding), fine art murals, paint analysis, field research, color schemes, and creation of new designs.
He has worked as a consultant for architects, developers, and public and religious buildings throughout the US. He is a practitioner, educator and advocate with an unparalleled understanding of traditional materials, methods, and their use. Restoration architects and preservation leaders rely on John’s experience and often seek his advice on the interpretation of historic, period interiors with complex finish systems such as encaustic and distemper paints, simulated inlaid wood-grain, marbling, trompe l’oeil, architectural grisaille, freehand artwork, and old-world gilding and glazing effects.
A champion of education, John is constantly training and lecturing. He continues to share his architectural arts knowledge with clients, architects, preservationists, conservators, craftspeople and professionals as a guest lecturer at university graduate preservation programs and by leading decorative finish workshops and professional development presentations. He is dedicated to ensuring that his unique knowledge is passed on in the tradition of the master craftsman to the apprentice.
John Conducting Workshops
Those he has trained in the traditional methods and techniques included his daughter Jacqueline Canning Riccio who is the Studio Production Manager and David Riccio who is one of the Principals and President of the company. Another of his daughters, Dorothea Canning Hennessey is the other Principal and the Vice President managing the day-to-day to keep things running smoothly. The grand-kids have also started to be a part of things and learn some of the secrets of the trade. He has made the company a family run business not just by having those actually related to him involved but in how everyone who works at the company becomes an extended part of the family.
Over these 45 years John has built a company to be proud of. There is no doubt that John Canning is a historic finishes and preservation specialist that has had a tremendous impact when it comes to historic preservation in the nation. His reputation is not only for fine workmanship but for the high standards and professionalism that every project is handled with. Perfecting preservation is not only the tag line he created for his company but it is the mission that gets implemented in all projects they undertake.