Alan C. Collier was born in Toronto on March 19, 1911. He was a graduate of the Ontario College of Art, class of 1933. The year following his graduation, Collier began a schedule of spring exhibitions with the O.S.A. and R.C.A. in Montreal and in Hamilton. He also exhibited across Canada during the winter.
Beginning in 1936, Collier worked as a gold miner for eighteen months at the Omega Gold Mine in Larder Lake, Ontario. Mid-1937, Collier began studying at the Art Student's League in New York City under Howard Trafton. During his summer holidays he continued to work underground at the Omega Mine until 1939, when he began his career as a professional artist in the art department of an advertising agency in New York.
In 1941, Collier married Ruth Brown of Brantford, Ontario. The following year the couple returned to Toronto where Collier worked for a year as an aircraft mechanic. During the Second World War, Collier joined the Canadian Army in the Artillery Survey. Following the end of the war, Collier returned to Toronto where he resumed working as an artist only this time he primarily painted and did less commercial work. Collier welcomed the birth of his only child, a son, in 1950.
Beginning in 1951, Collier began doing underground mining paintings. He took a sketching trip to Delnite Mine in Timmins, Ontario. Over the following years this was followed by trips to McIntyre, Preston East Dome, New Calumet, Faraday, Copper Corp, Kidd Copper, Copperfield, and Lamaque Mines. In 1956, Collier took a three month sketching trip to Western Canada by car and travel trailer—a practice that he continued every summer since and that took him to most parts of Canada.
Collier was elected a member of the Ontario Society of Artists in 1952. In 1954, he was elected Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art. 1955 saw him join the staff of the Ontario College of Art in the Advertising Art Department. Collier was represented in the First Biennial of Canadian Art at the National Gallery. His first solo exhibition was at the Roberts Gallery in Toronto. Later, Collier was in a four-man show at the Kitchener-Waterloo Gallery. In 1957, Collier again had a solo exhibition at the Roberts Gallery, Toronto. That same year he exhibited in the External Affairs Show at the National Gallery. 1958, Collier was elected President of the Ontario Society of Artists. He had another solo exhibition at the Roberts Gallery, Toronto and executed a mural for the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. In 1961, Collier was elected to be a full academician of the Royal Canadian Academy.
Collier continued to exhibit at various galleries and execute public murals annually during the remainder of his career, notably the Fourth Biennial of Canadian Art at the National Gallery in 1961. In 1977, Collier was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal. From 1974 to 1976 Collier was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 1977 he was appointed Alternate Trustee to the Art Gallery of Ontario.
In 1967 Collier resigned from the faculty of the Ontario College of Art to devote his full time to painting. That same year he was awarded the Centennial Medal for his contributions to Canadian art. During his retirement, Collier was fortunate enough to be able to make several sketching trips to the Canadian High Arctic. In 1972 he spent eleven weeks in the Eastern High Arctic on the Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker. In 1978 Collier spent five weeks sketching through the Northwest passage, on the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker John A. Macdonald. In 1984 he travelled to the Canadian High Arctic, courtesy of the Polar Continental Shelf Program and Pacific Western Airlines. In 1985, his last trip to the High Arctic was spent sketching for two weeks.
Collier's work can be found in numerous public collections, including: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Art Museum of London, Ontario; Hamilton Art Gallery; Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery; Frye Museum, Seattle, Washington; Sir George William University and Loyola University (now Concordia University), Montreal; C.I.L. Collection, Montreal; Imperial Oil Collection, Toronto; Toronto-Dominion Bank Collection; Royal Bank Collection; National Trust Company Collection, Toronto; Department of External Affairs, Ottawa;
Canada Council Art Bank; McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa; I.B.M. Collection, Toronto; Dofasco Collection, Hamilton; Imperial Bank of Commerce, Toronto. Collier is represented by portraits in numerous schools, universities, and business collections.