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Cowley Abbott’s Fall International Art Auction Features Multiple Important Works by the Twentieth Century Icon

Andy Warhol, Howdy Doody
Auction Estimate: $55,000-75,000

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art”.

-Andy Warhol

The candid Press Release from Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in 1981 for the exhibition of Warhol’s Myths Series, invites the public to the opening on Saturday, September 12th.  It goes onto state which characters are included in the series and that they were derived from original photographs Warhol took of actors he hired or acquaintances portraying each character. 

The Press Release goes onto say “They represent fantasies, dreams, hopes and fears.”

It is interesting that Warhol choose these characters and included himself as “The Shadow”, the last print in the series. The Myth Series is now one of the most discussed and written about collection of prints by Andy Warhol.

Perry Tung discussing Howdy Doody

Cowley Abbot is pleased to offer two works from this iconic series, both consigned from an Important Private Collection. Howdy Doody was one of the first television shows to be shown in colour and apparently the show was used to sell color television sets in the 1950s. Like the other characters from the series the image of Howdy Doody was not appropriated from the media but was based on a photograph that Warhol took of the puppet.

Andy Warhol, Mammy
Auction Estimate: $35,000-50,000

The second work we are offering from Myths is Mammy. Not a character from a specific story, but she is a character that can be seen in various forms of popular culture. Warhol photographed Sylvia Williams, who was the former director of the National Museum of African American Art at the Smithsonian, in the role of the maternal figure.

Perry Tung discussing Mammy
Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe I Love Your Kiss Forever (1964)
Auction Estimate: $1,000-1,500
Perry Tung discussing Marilyn Monroe I Love Your Kiss Forever Forever 1964

Also included in the auction are a further two works by Andy Warhol, both inspired by women he adored. Marilyn Monroe I Love Your Kiss Forever Forever 1964 is from the unsigned edition of 2000 issued in an unbound book entitled “1cent Life”. The book was compiled by Walasse Ting and Sam Francis. This work was adapted from a painting Warhol did of Marilyn Monroe’s lips in 1962 and incorporates the poem “Jade White Butterfly” by Walasse Ting.

Cowley Abbott is pleased to have been entrusted with these renowned works for auction. The entire Fall Auction of International Art can be viewed by following this link.

Literature: “Press Release for Andy Warhol’s ‘Myths’”, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, September 1st, 1981 [online publication]

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Jack Bush, Purple, Lime, Brown (1965)

Cowley Abbott’s Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art, November 22, features important artworks by Jack Bush, Jean Paul Riopelle, Lawren Harris and William Kurelek, among many other Canadian masters.

Toronto, ON (November 1, 2021) – As the Canadian art market continues to experience overwhelming interest and activity, with the highest level of collector engagement in more than a decade, art auction house Cowley Abbott is returning to a live in-person auction event, the first in more than a year due to the pandemic. Cowley Abbott’s Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art takes place on Monday, November 22 at 7pm ET at the Four Seasons Hotel, 60 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, and offers a hybrid of in-person, absentee, and real-time online and phone bidding.

In June, Cowley Abbott’s Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art saw a staggering 96 per cent of artworks sold, with two-thirds of the works exceeding the high-end of pre-auction expectation with active global bidding participation welcomed via absentee, telephone and real-time online bidding. The upcoming fall auction is also drawing significant pre-sale interest, with a registration list for limited in-person bidding.

“The pandemic has influenced a boom in the Canadian art market at auction. As collectors continue to spend more time at home, they are choosing to update and beautify their surroundings; while some are parting with rare and quality works of art that they have considered selling for years to make room for new work and still others are looking to art as a more active part of their investment portfolio,” said Rob Cowley, Canadian art specialist and President of Cowley Abbott. “It has led to many important and rare works being presented at auction and contributed to driving record-setting sales while countless individuals engage actively in their passion to collect.”

Among the Fall Auction highlights is Jack Bush’s Purple, Lime, Brown (1965) (auction estimate: $350,000 – $550,000), owned for decades by beloved singer and variety show host Andy Williams and his wife Deborah. The painting is an excellent example of Bush’s best work in oil and is from a significant period in his career. It was created the same year, and is of similar importance and quality to Bush’s Column on Browns, a canvas that set an artist record at auction, selling for $870,000 at Cowley Abbott in fall 2020. Purple, Lime, Brown is expected to attract similar interest from collectors.

Purple, Lime, Brown debuted to the public in 1965 during Bush’s first solo European exhibition at London’s Waddington Galleries. That year, Bush took a hiatus from showing in Canada to make a strong first impression overseas, reserving nine of his best paintings from 1964 and early 1965.

After Williams passed away in 2012, four significant Bush paintings from their collection went up for auction in 2013, however the estate held on to Purple, Lime, Brown until March 2021, when it was sold at auction in New York. With pandemic travel restrictions in place, and prioritizing safety, the painting could not be examined in person by the artist’s estate prior to the New York sale, leading to the painting being offered without its title, concrete date and confirmation of its history.

The painting returned to Canada, after 56 years abroad, where upon inspection with the painting removed from its stretcher, the artist’s inscription of title and date were revealed and its history fully researched and confirmed by the estate of Jack Bush, establishing the painting as Purple, Lime, Brown, an important 1965 work by the celebrated colour-field painter.

While the primary market for works by Canadian artists is in Canada, Cowley Abbott has seen a spike in global interest. This auction features several important Canadian works from global collections that could find a new home back in Canada.

Drawing pre-sale attention is an important work by celebrated artist Jean Paul Riopelle. Painted while the artist lived abroad, Sans titre (circa 1959) (auction estimate: $300,000 – $500,000) has primarily been owned outside of Canada by collectors, galleries and auction houses in New York and London. The painting makes its Canadian auction
debut with Cowley Abbott this season.
A rare depiction of the Quebec landscape, Lawren Harris’ Near Métis, Quebec is appearing for the first time at auction this season, the charming composition already drawing bidder interest from across Canada.
William Kurelek, Behold Man Without God (#3) (auction estimate: $60,000 – $80,000) is a well-known image for the artist, as versions of this painting currently hang in the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It is a highly personal and dark portrait of human hypocrisy, with a title that gestures toward religious redemption that
signals a harrowing and transformative moment in his life.
When Kurelek created multiple versions of a painting, it underlined his valuation of the message. However, his replicated work tended to be bucolic Prairie landscapes coveted by collectors. He rarely reprised scenes of devastation and violence, or paintings that emphasized his devout Roman Catholic worldview. In this regard, the Behold Man Without God series is remarkable. Consigned from a New Jersey collection. 
Molly Lamb Bobak’s, Beach Crowd (auction estimate: $40,000 – $60,000) is a prime example of the artist’s lively crowd scenes, her most celebrated subject, and could break the artist’s record at auction (Highland Games, Fredericton established the artist record in 2019, selling for $100,300 at Cowley Abbott). Beach Crowd comes from a private collection in Boston.
Kim Dorland’s, Alley, (auction estimate: $25,000 – $30,000) was painted in 2006, when Dorland had solidified his artistic style and was beginning to see significant success in the gallery world.The scene, with graffiti on the garage door, recalls the gritty, working-class environment Dorland grew up in and challenges the conventional notion of the romantic Canadian landscape.
Cowley Abbott set the auction record for the contemporary painter’s work in spring 2021 with Green Tree Blue Tree fetching $66,000. Interest in Alley (which has been exhibited in shows and reproduced in publications related to Dorland’s career) is already receiving strong interest to potentially challenge the high-mark. From a New York City collection.
Cornelius Krieghoff’s Ladies and Habitant Sleighing in Winter (auction estimate: $25,000 – $35,000) exhibits the hallmarks of a classic snowy landscape by the artist. A highly sought-after subject matter, the winter sleighing scene was one Krieghoff returned to often and continues to be a coveted token of early Canadian art, culture, and life.
From a collection in Arizona.
Frederick Verner painted Elk Browsing (auction estimate: $30,000 – $40,000) when he was at the height of his career in 1888. This oil on canvas reflects his confidence in broadening the range of subject matter for his art, and was a departure from his depictions of buffalo and First Nations peoples, for which he was renowned. From a California collection and a descendant of Henry Winnett – who was a well-known hotelier in Toronto, London and Niagara in the late 1800s/early 1900s.
The influence of the Group of Seven and Lawren Harris is evident in Reflections in the Melt Water (auction estimate: $12,000 – $15,000) by Doris McCarthy, signified by the stripped back arctic landscape emphasized by simple abstract shapes. C
onsigned from a collector in Nebraska.

For more highlights, an online catalogue and an interactive virtual preview, please visit Located across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario on Dundas St. West in Toronto, Cowley Abbott is open to the public by appointment, allowing collectors to view artwork on offer in the gallery. Offering more previewing hours than any other major auction house this season, public viewing of the fall auction is open Monday to Saturday (and Sunday, November 21st) until the sale day on November 22nd.

Since its inception in 2013, Cowley Abbott’s live and online auctions have included headline-grabbing works such as a rare 100-year-old Tom Thomson portrait (Daydreaming, sold for $172,500); and a celebrated depiction of Kensington Market by William Kurelek (Hot Day in Kensington Market, sold for $472,000). Their inaugural live auction in May 2016 set the record for the highest-selling Algoma sketch by Lawren Harris, fetching $977,500, tripling the previous auction record. Their Fall 2020 virtual live auction set a new artist record for Jack Bush with Columns on Brown selling for $870,000 with their Spring 2021 virtual live auction witnessing an unprecedented 96% of artworks sold.

Those interested in consignment can arrange a complimentary and confidential consultation by contacting Cowley Abbott’s specialists at 1-866-931-8415 or [email protected]. Preliminary auction assessments are offered on a complimentary and confidential basis with no further obligation.

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Jean Paul Riopelle, Sans titre (circa 1959)

Cowley Abbott’s 2021 Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art presents strong examples of Quebec post-war abstract painting, by artists who took varying approaches to gestural and hard-edge styles within a thriving and groundbreaking art scene.

Canada’s breakthrough into abstraction largely began in Montréal in the 1940s. ​​Two avant-garde artistic groups came to dominate the Quebec art scene: les Automatistes, formed in the mid-1940s who shared an interest in gestural abstract painting inspired by the surrealist practice of automatic writing and drawing, and the Plasticiens, a hard-edge abstraction movement formed in 1954 by a group of artists who sought a return to order and control.

The catalogue cover lot, Sans titre (circa 1959) (pictured above) is a masterpiece by Jean Paul Riopelle, one of Canada’s most celebrated artists. The oil on canvas contains energetic brushstrokes that are at once controlled and spontaneous. Riopelle was a prominent member of Les Automatistes and signatory of the 1948 manifesto Refus Global, until he moved to France in 1947. There, he became acquainted with André Breton and the Surrealist circle. After many exhibitions and an active artistic production, including Sans titre (circa 1959), Riopelle returned to Québec in 1972.

Marcel Barbeau, Rétine Ying Yang

Rétine Ying Yang by Marcel Barbeau is a bold and mesmerizing black and white abstract canvas. A fellow member of Les Automatistes, Barbeau was also influenced by post-war abstract movements in France, and his travels in Europe and the United States. These experiences helped him form a distinct and more international style of abstract painting. Rétine Ying Yang is aligned in formalist concerns with Op Art, an extension of hard-edge painting characterized by lines, shapes and movement that appear to the viewer as a result of optical illusions. The painting was completed in 1966, while Barbeau was living in New York City and exhibiting with the American Op Art School.

Jean McEwen, Suite des pays vastes

Born in 1923, Jean McEwen trained as a pharmacist at the University of Montreal and wrote poetry for Québec based literary journals. As a self-taught artist, he was most interested in the feelings that paintings gave him and the exploration of colour and light. McEwen was mentored by Automatiste artist Paul Émilie Borduas in the early 1950s and traveled to Paris for a year to study with Jean Paul Riopelle. Following his European sojourn, the artist adopted a style that loosely combined French Impressionists as well as American Abstract Expressionism. Suite des pays vastes, dating to 1972, embodies McEwen’s signature style of large, open areas of layered and softly-applied colour, creating complex and moody compositions.

Rita Letendre, WYKI

As one of the few women artists at the centre of abstract art in Canada, Rita Letendre holds an important position in Canadian art history, having produced some of the most innovative examples of post-war art. She is an example of a painter who fluctuated between gestural and hard-edge abstraction throughout her prolific career. WYKI, dating to 1975, explores her fascination with depicting speed and vibration. The use of the airbrush technique, combined with sharp wedges or arrows that cut across the image plane, was characteristic of her large canvases from the decade. 

Jacques Hurtubise, Rose Slush

Jacques Hurtubise attended the École des beaux-arts de Montréal until 1960, when a grant enabled the young painter to spend nine months in New York. There, he became enamored with the spontaneous and gestural painting of the Abstract Expressionists, such as De Kooning and Pollock. Hurtubise divided his time between Montreal and New York for much of the 1960s, as he developed his unique style that straddled painterliness and hard-edge painting throughout his career. Rose Slush contains Hurtubise’s signature ‘gestural splash’ forms, during the 1980s when he was exploring the theme of symmetry.

These five abstract paintings in the November 22nd auction serve as fantastic examples of the varying and converging directions taken by Quebec’s avant-garde artists in the post-war era. Of course, the sale also includes numerous other important works of art on offer, by historical, Group of Seven, abstract and realist, Indigenous and contemporary artists. The complete catalogue of artworks included in the Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art can be found by following this link. For more information on the sale, to book a private preview appointment, and for  information on our consignment process, please contact us at [email protected].

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Rita Letendre, Momentum

Our current October online auctions offer a wide range of artworks by renowned Canadian artists, representing the country from coast to coast. The Abstractions Auction offers many commanding and stunning artworks to tempt the eye, while appealing to all levels of collectors. The artistic post-war movements that propelled Canadian art forward after the Group of Seven were innovative and exciting, demonstrating the influence of world views and a new social dialogue. 

Four captivating works by Claude Tousignant are exemplary of the artist’s minimalist, expressionist and abstractionist style. The vibrant colours, rich tones and large compositional format of these artworks make them an incredible addition to any discerning collection.

Harold Town, “Abstraction” (1957)

Harold Town, a founder and member of Pahinters Eleven, as well as an accomplished artist, is represented by a variety of works on paper and a delicate sculptural object. Works by this abstract artist from Toronto are highly sought after, instantly adding energy and vibrance to a varied collection of art.

Harold Town, Untitled (Egg)

Harold Town painstakingly created a small number of these “eggs” and gave them as Christmas gifts. The artwork is a symmetrical collage, careful applied upon a plastic egg from which a pair of women’s pantyhose were packaged (as was the packaging used by “L’eggs” from the late 1960s until the early 1990s).

Rita Letendre, Danna

Two significant lots in the auction by Rita Letendre, a leading member of the colourist movement, exemplify her fascination with depicting speed and vibration. Momentum (Lot 2) and Danna (Lot 42) are both a testament to her artistic practice.

Sorel Etrog, Etrusco (Study)

Multiple distinctive sculptures are featured in this auction, providing an attractive and dynamic option for a collector. Etrusco (Study) by Sorel Etrog (lot 10) is a diminutive work by the artist, measuring 4.75 x 1.5 x 1.875 inches (overall). Further sculptural works by Anthony Quinn (lot 11), Antonio Kieff Grediaga (lot 47), Roger Cavalli (lot 48, 49, 50) and Ruben Zellermayer (lot 52 and 53) are lots to pay attention to in the final day of bidding, as they are both accessible in terms of value and add three dimensionality to a gathering of artworks at home or in the office.

Léon Bellefleur, Les écluses

Key post-war highlights in the auction include Les écluses by Léon Bellefleur (lot 1), Carmina Burana No.1 by William Ronald (lot 3), Fentes by Yves Gaucher (lot 44) and Bi-Ocre by Guido Molinari (lot 45).

Yves Gaucher, Fentes

The complete catalogue of artworks included in the Abstractions Online Auction can be found by following this link. For more information on our three current online auctions, how to book your private preview appointment at the gallery, or our consignment process, please contact us at [email protected] and one of our specialists would be delighted to assist you.

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The Prints, Photography and Multiples auction has been an extremely enjoyable sale to put together.  We started to curate the sale just after the close of the International Art auction in June and one of the early consignments was Brice Marden’s Ten Days Portfolio (lot 27). The eight etchings and aquatints in this portfolio were inspired by Marden’s travels in Greece.  Often described as a minimalist, these have the same characteristics of his larger works: rectangular formats and a subdued palette, only here on a more intimate level. The provenance is excellent, having been purchased in Toronto and remaining in the same private collection.

Ten Days (Portfolio of 8) (Lewison 20) by Brice Marden
Auction Estimate: $60,000-80,000h

Our Senior International Art Specialist had the privilege of spending the afternoon with Christo and Jeanne-Claude in their studio in New York just after The Gates Project in Central Park had been realized in 2005. You realize the amount of work that goes into Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects, as some of the projects are not realized for several years.  When we got an email with images of the lithograph, Arc de Triompe Wrapped (A Project for Paris), we were very excited about having this work consigned. This is from the publisher’s edition of 20. Arc de Triompe Wrapped (A Project for Paris) was issued in an edition of 150 (lot 44). It is even more meaningful as the project is finally being realized in Paris.  From September 18 to October 3rd the Arc De Triomphe will be wrapped.  Here is the link for the live stream on their website.

Arc De Triomphe Wrapped (Project for Paris) (Schellman 144) by Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Auction Estimate: $12,000-16,000

There is a fantastic selection of photography in the sale, including the iconic portrait of Winston Churchill by Yosuf Karsh (lot 64), an interesting series by Yuri Dojc titled the Last Folio (lot 7), which documents the preserved history in a school in Slovakia before World War II, as well as wonderful portraits by Arnold Newman of Pablo Picasso (lot 20), Georgia O’Keefe (lot 19) and Max Ernst (lot 18). The Max Ernst portrait is remarkable. The story behind the work, is that Ernst was drawing a lot of birds at this point in his career and when he saw the portrait, he was very excited, as just beside his face the plumes of smoke suggest the image of a bird.

Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh
Auction Estimate: $8,000-10,000
The Last Folio Series (8) by Yuri Dojc
Auction Estimate: $6,000-8,000
Pablo Picasso, Vallauris, France by Arnold Newman
Auction Estimate: $2,000-3,000
Georgia O’Keefe, Outside of Ghost Ranch by Arnold Newman
Auction Estimate: $2,000-3,000
Max Ernst by Arnold Newman
Auction Estimate: $800-1,200

There are three very special lots that begin the auction, introducing our partnership with Casey House, a hospital in Toronto which specializes in HIV/AIDS care. American photographer Cara Barer starts the auction with a striking work entitled, Heart (lot 1). Characteristic of her manipulation of books into sculptural objects, this work attracted lots of interest as the previews commenced. Vancouver artist Damian Moppett’s playful image of pieces of Lego and a balloon constructs an interesting juxtaposition between the hard and soft qualities of these objects (lot 2). David Burdeny’s striking image, Sweepers, West Lake, Hangzhou China continues his exploration of Asia and its landscape (lot 3).

Heart by Cara Barer
Auction Estimate: $800-1,200
Untitled (B&W Lego Pcs-Rubber Band) by Damian Moppett
Auction Estimate: $1,000-1,500
Sweepers, West Lake, Hangzhou, China by David Burdeny
Auction Estimate: $1,500-2,000

We are extremely pleased to partner with Casey House in offering these lots. All proceeds from their sale will benefit Casey House Ontario’s HIV/Aids Hospital. We hope there will be many more donations of fine art that we will be able to offer through our sales. As well, we very much look forward to hosting the Art with Heart Preview for Casey House this year and broadcasting the auction live from the Cowley Abbott gallery on Tuesday, October 19th.

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David Bowie, D Head XLVI

“If you come from art, you’ll always be art” – David Bowie

Attracting attention from collectors around the globe, David Bowie’s DHead XLVI fetched $108,120 CAD during the Cowley Abbott Spring International Art Auction, which closed on Thursday, June 24th. The small portrait, which was purchased at a donation centre in Northern Ontario for $5, drew bids from clients located across Canada and well beyond our borders, finally selling for almost ten times the pre-sale auction estimate of $9,000-12,000, establishing a new global auction record for an artwork by David Bowie.

David Robert Jones, known more commonly as David Bowie, was an icon of the music industry and of twentieth century pop culture. Like many musicians, Bowie studied art and design as a young man, which would foster a love of fine art throughout his lifetime. He was also a passionate collector and painter, heavily influenced by the modernist art trends of the twentieth century; his paintings possess the stylistic influences of the German expressionists, Francis Bacon and the London School of painters. Bowie’s own work rarely appears at auction, so when Cowley Abbott was contacted about a painting entitled D Head XLVI, there was a cautious excitement.

D Head XLVI was found in the most unexpected place: a donation centre for household goods in South River, Ontario. The chance discovery of this treasure within a pile of discarded goods is quite remarkable. The consignor of the painting was astonished upon viewing a label which read “David Bowie” and realizing it was the signature of the artist inscribed on the reverse. After conducting thorough research, which included correspondence with a David Bowie specialist in the United Kingdom, we were able to confirm that the painting is indeed by the famous artist and part of a series that he completed in the 1990s. 

Between 1995 and 1997 Bowie created a series of approximately forty-seven works on canvas which he entitled Dead Heads (or D Head). Each title included a non-sequential Roman numeral. The sitters ranged from band members, friends and acquaintances and there were also some self-portraits. It has been suggested that, for some of these important paintings, Bowie drew inspiration from the Ziggy Stardust era. With long hair and a pronounced profile, this energetic and enigmatic portrait is truly a rare representation from a celebrated artist (we can attempt to surmise who the sitter is, however, unfortunately the label does not confirm their identity.)

Cowley Abbott was pleased to be entrusted with such an exciting artwork and delighted to share the painting and its story with collectors in the weeks leading to the auction. The story was carried by media outlets around the world, our firm’s excitement matched by Bowie fans and art collectors globally.

Related Press:

BBC (June 17, 2021) (June 24, 2021)

NPR (June 16, 2021)

The Globe & Mail (June 25, 2021)

The Daily Mail (June 25, 2021)

Newsweek (June 16, 2021)

CBC (June 24, 2021)

Global News (June 15, 2021)

National Post (June 28, 2021)

BlogTO (June 11, 2021)

Artnet News (June 24, 2021)

Alan Cross: A Journal of Musical Things (June 24, 2021)

Posted by & filed under Cowley Abbott News & Press, Cowley Abbott Press, Cowley Abbott Updates, Sale Updates.

An Unprecedented 94% Sell-Through Rate and Numerous Auction Records Achieved at the Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art

Cowley Abbott Continues to Realize Exceptional Results for Canadian Artworks with Hundreds of Bidders Competing via Telephone, Online and Absentee at Auction

The Cowley Abbott Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art on June 9th was brilliantly executed and exceeded expectations. A phenomenal 94% sell-through rate was achieved, several auction records were smashed and 65% of the artworks sold surpassed the high-end of the estimate. The historical, post-war and contemporary art offerings by illustrious Canadian artists attracted a high level of engagement from collectors. The live auction invited hundreds of bidders and thousands of bids via absentee, telephone and online and was executed flawlessly from start to finish. 

Our firm has continued to adapt, evolve and grow with the changing climate of the auction industry during the global Covid-19 pandemic. Our combination of innovative and industry leading technology, combined with professional customer service and a sincere passion for art has ensured that we remain engaged with the Canadian art community through every possible avenue.

Ivan Eyre, Amber Pass
Price Realized: $288,000

The monumental cover lot, Amber Pass by Ivan Eyre, made its auction debut during the evening sale, surpassing the pre-sale estimate after much spirited bidding to realize $228,000. This canvas is a prime example of Eyre’s large-scale landscapes and was met with avid interest from the moment of the publication of the catalogue. Acquired directly from the collection of the artist, this captivating painting is a fantastic addition for an astute art collector. 

Kim Dorland, Green Tree Blue Tree
Price Realized: $66,000 (Auction Record)

Cowley Abbott was pleased to be entrusted with two works by the accomplished Alberta-born contemporary artist, Kim Dorland. Green Tree Blue Tree, a commanding oil, acrylic and spray paint on wood panel painting, which was included in the 2013 McMichael Canadian Art Collection exhibition, You are Here: Kim Dorland and the Return to Painting, soared to a new auction record of $66,000.  Untitled, another painting by Dorland that explores Canada’s long-established tradition of landscape painting also found a new home selling for $18,000. Records were further smashed by another Canadian contemporary artist, John Hartman, as The Old Port and Mount Royal exceeded pre-sale expectations to sell for $24,000. 

Franklin Carmichael, Orillia (1915)
Price Realized: $144,000

The auction house was delighted to offer an early painting by Franklin Carmichael, Orillia (1915), for the first time at auction. The impressionistic winter scene originally belonged to the family of the artist and was passed down to the current Ontario private collection. This charming painting was completed prior to the formation of the Group of Seven and, as anticipated, feverish bidding ensued when the lot opened for bidding, eventually hammering down at $144,000. 

A rare and early canvas by celebrated artist A.Y. Jackson, which was extensively exhibited and belonged to the painter’s brother, garnered ample attention in the weeks leading to the auction to extend to $90,000 in the evening auction. October Morning, Épisy was painted “en plein-air” by Jackson in 1909, and the composition showcases his mastery of light at the age of 27, more than a decade before the Group of Seven would be formed. This canvas was complemented by four other exquisite oil sketches by Jackson offered in the auction, which were all admired and achieved success.

Homer Watson, The Old Mill
Price Realized: $38,400

Historical Canadian art demanded attention at this auction, as fierce bidding was ignited between telephone and online bidders for a nostalgic landscape painting by Homer Watson. This detailed 30 x 40-inch canvas commanded a final value of $38,400. A distinctive and self-assured work by David Milne executed in watercolour circa 1913 was a favourite amongst clients, achieving $33,600. The beautiful Portrait of Louise by Cornelius Krieghoff, an intimate and tender portrait of the artist’s wife, found a new home at $18,000, while the first lot in the auction by the distinguished J.W. Beatty, Farm Machinery, possibly executed while the artist was an official war artist in France of 1918, sold for $11,400. Further interest for historical artworks was displayed with a vibrant oil by Arthur Lismer, Fisherman’s Gear, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia achieving $24,000, while fellow Group member, the renowned Lawren Harris, drew attention with the offer of an important drawing executed in 1930 while on a trip with A.Y. Jackson. Arctic Tent, Pangnirtung, Baffin Island is one of a number of preparatory sketches produced by the artist while on this trip, with only three oil sketches of an Inuit tent within a landscape later painted. This rare work on paper sold for $20,400. 

Further records were shattered at the evening auction, with appreciation shown for Prudence Heward of The Beaver Hall Group. A leading figure painter in the 1920s and 1930s, Heward’s Mrs. Decco (1940) was extensively exhibited in the 1940s and was originally acquired from the estate of the artist. This powerful portrait attracted attention from collectors from the instant the catalogue was produced and ascended to $90,000, setting a new auction record for the artist. 

Maud Lewis, Flowers in Red Pot
Price Realized: $48,000 (Auction Record)

Cowley Abbott was pleased to be entrusted with numerous works by accomplished Canadian female artists, of which many experienced vigorous bidding during the June 9th auction. Notably, four paintings by Maud Lewis were met with enthusiasm, with competitive bidding taking place between absentee, telephone and online bidders. White Kitten in a Tea Cup, a rare and witty work by the beloved Maritime artist reached $38,400, quickly followed by At the Train Station selling for $44,440 and Surprised Deer for $28,800. The surprise of the evening was Flowers in Red Pot, painted around 1967, one of a small number of flower pot paintings executed by Maud Lewis, which broke the auction record for the artist by selling for $48,000. The results accomplished by Maud Lewis were remarkable, with the price realized of three of these works being the highest price ever paid at auction for a work by Maudie.  

Molly Lamb Bobak Cafeteria, a rare and intimate portrayal of the activities at home during the Second World War, sold for $7,200. An additional popular work by Bobak, Flowers 4, hammered down at $10,200. Pegi Nicol MacLeod, another artist from Eastern Canada, received ample attention in the lead up to the auction. Bunks, a striking watercolour completed while an official war artist during the Second World War fetched $7,200, while the energetic and ebullient Centennial Parade (Fredericton) attained $18,000.

Two paintings by Toronto favourite Doris McCarthy were sought after: Barachois sold for $9,600 and The Pines at the Keyhole for $4,800. Quebec female artists Marcella Maltais and Lise Gervais were represented in the auction. Rébellion by Maltais, an accomplished 1957 abstract oil on canvas reached $18,000 and the enigmatic La Voie d’Enfer (1959) by Gervais ascended to $31,200, to the delight of collectors. A diminutive abstract by Rita Letendre found a new home at $11,400 and Marian Mildred Dale Scott rounded out the offerings with a circa 1966 experimental geometric abstraction selling for $7,200. 

Jack Bush, Untitled (circa 1958)
Price Realized: 27,600

The Spring Live Auction witnessed solid prices for a wide range of post-war works of art, including the art of Jack Bush: Girl with Red Hair blasted through the pre-sale estimate to reach $48,000; The Red Square, originally in the collection of the artist, sold for $10,800; and House on the Highway completed in 1947 sold for $7,800. Perhaps the most interesting work by the artist included in the June 9th auction was Untitled (circa 1958), which hammered down at $27,600. This brightly coloured gouache made its debut at auction with Cowley Abbott and was painted during a key period when Bush was breaking away from figurative painting to embrace abstraction. What is particularly notable about this work is the fact that it was a gift from Jack Bush to fellow Painters Eleven member, William Ronald. As recounted by his widow, Helen Ronald, the two artists met up one day in 1958 so that Bush could show Ronald the new direction he was taking in his painting. During this encounter, Bush presented the colourful gouache on paper to his friend as a gift. Ronald was so impressed and touched by the artwork that he held onto it for the remainder of his life.

A key highlight in the auction were two exceptional paintings by William Kurelek. One painting was originally owned by the estate of the artist, Haystacks and Ducks (Ukrainian Series). This was one of the final paintings completed by the artist, a rare discovery, which sold for $55,200. In the 1973 The Grouse Mountain Sky Ride, Kurelek depicts the summer activities of the popular Vancouver ski destination, Grouse Mountain Resort. This mixed media on board was  favoured amongst collectors, selling for $60,000. 

Doug Morton, Two with Grey (1965)
Price Realized: $26,400 (Auction Record)

A variety of post-war offerings also drew competitive bidding during the spring catalogue sale, breaking auction records. Midsummer Dawn, Percé by the Scottish-born Canadian artist Charles Comfort was completed in 1977 on one of his trips to Quebec. This outstanding depiction of an iconic landmark soared through an auction record previously set by Cowley Abbott for the artist, to achieve $43,200. Doug Morton, of Regina Five fame, was represented in the sale by Two with Grey (1965). The vivid colours which energize the pictorial space of this masterful work caught the attention of many, setting an auction record for the artist at $26,400. 

Multiple distinctive sculptures by Sorel Etrog were featured in the auction, a significant sculptor known for his dynamic and elegant creations. Cowley Abbott was thrilled to be entrusted with six phenomenal works by the artist: the sophisticated and stoic sculpture of Manon, standing at just under five feet was met with lively bidding to $102,000. Steady interest from collectors was apparent for four diminutive bronze works by Etrog, including Solo Study for $22,800, La Mer Study for $9,600, Study for Madonna Bust for $9,000 and Magic Barrel for $6,600. The expressive Homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, with its contained emotion and marked reverence for the revolutionary figure attained $33,600. 

We extend our thanks to the collectors, clients, bidders and buyers who helped to ensure that our Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art was a triumph. We look forward to continuing to provide the highest level of engagement and service to collectors in the industry and are currently accepting consignments for our forthcoming live and online auctions. If you feel our firm can be of service, we would be pleased to provide a complimentary and confidential consultation. Please contact our specialists at 1-866-931-8415 or [email protected].

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Jack Bush, Untitled (circa 1958)
A gift of Jack Bush to William Ronald (Collection of the Estate of William Ronald)

Cowley Abbott is privileged to be working with the Estate of William Ronald in the offering of artwork from the artist’s collection at auction. There are currently two Cowley Abbott auctions with artwork and items from the estate: one artwork in the June live auction and a separate William Ronald estate online auction.

We are delighted to begin this collaboration with the offering of Jack Bush’s Untitled (circa 1958) in the upcoming June 9th Live Auction of Important Canadian Art, marking the artwork’s debut at auction. The brightly coloured gouache was a gift from Bush to his fellow Painters Eleven member William Ronald. The two Toronto-based artists were prominent figures in the formation of the influential artists’ group in the 1950s. Painters Eleven helped to introduce abstract painting into the mainstream of Canadian art, which, until that point, had been dominated by the aesthetic of the Group of Seven.

Untitled (circa 1958) was painted during a key period when Bush was breaking completely from figurative painting to embrace abstraction. During the spring of 1958, Bush visited New York City and saw the work of William Ronald at the Kootz Gallery. Ronald moved to New York shortly after the formation of Painters Eleven in 1955 and began exhibiting with Samuel Kootz in 1957.  Prior to this, Ronald arranged to have Painters Eleven invited to exhibit in the annual exhibition of the American Association of Abstract Artists at the Riverside Museum in New York City. This exposure would introduce Ronald, Bush and their peers to a wider audience and give them an international standing.

Jack Bush, Helen Ronald & William Ronald
at the Painters Eleven opening at the Riverside Museum, New York on April 9th, 1956
(photograph courtesy of Helen Ronald / The Estate of William Ronald)

Ronald became friendly with fellow abstract painters of the New York School including Mark Rothko and Franz Kline. The art critic Clement Greenberg introduced both artists to many leading Abstract Expressionists and early Color-Field painters, and praised the work of Painters Eleven. As recounted by Helen Ronald, the two painters met up one day in 1958 so that Bush could show Ronald the new direction he was taking in his painting–one that was encouraged by Greenberg. Helen remarked: “Bill was surprised that Jack still cared about his opinion, especially as he felt there may have been some lingering hard feelings over his resignation from Painters Eleven the previous year.” During this encounter, Bush presented the colourful gouache on paper Untitled (circa 1958) to his friend as a gift. Helen adds “I remember Bill describing how enthusiastic Jack was about his new direction in painting and how much he appreciated Bill’s arranging for Greenberg to visit Painters Eleven. Bill then showed me the impressive, beautiful work on paper which we’re now calling the “Gouache for William Ronald” by Jack Bush. It was totally different than any of the many paintings by Jack that I’d seen before. It made an indelible impression.”

While Ronald gave away most of the artworks he collected throughout his life, he was so touched by the Jack Bush gouache that he held onto it for the rest of his life. Helen Ronald believes the time has come to pass the work on to a new owner, stating: “At this time in my life, I’m organizing my archive for the future. I’m pleased to say that it’s now time for someone else to take care of this beautiful work of Jack’s.” Cowley Abbott is fortunate to be offering this painting with such a unique and interesting provenance; it is rare to come across an artwork that was a gift between two famous artists. Untitled (circa 1958) will be included in the forthcoming “Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné”.

Cowley Abbott has a strong record at auction for the work of Jack Bush, including most recently the 1965 canvas Column on Browns which sold for $870,000 in December 2020. We continue to introduce rare and important examples of his work to the market, which have been consistently selling to advantage. We eagerly await this season’s live auction on June 9th, with much anticipation for the Jack Bush gouache on paper, among many other important Canadian artworks.

Cowley Abbott has commissioned a newly written biography of the art career of William Ronald containing previously unknown information sourced from the archives of The Estate of William Ronald. The biography can be found on Cowley Abbott’s website by following this link.

William Ronald in 1958 in Kingston, New Jersey
(photograph courtesy of Helen Ronald / The Estate of William Ronald)

In addition to the offering of the Jack Bush gouache in the June live auction, Cowley Abbott is also hosting the online auction, From the Estate of William Ronald, with bidding open between May 18th and June 1st. The auction includes artwork and ephemera acquired by William Ronald as gifts and trades with artists, galleries, friends and for his charitable work, the grouping providing a glimpse into the taste and community of William Ronald. This eclectic themed auction gives art collectors the first opportunity ever to purchase items from the personal collection of this influential artist. 

You can view and participate in the online auction by following this link

Posted by & filed under Cowley Abbott News & Press, Cowley Abbott Updates, Sale Updates.

Kenojuak Ashevak, Owls in Evening Light

Our March 2021 Online Auction of Indigenous and Inuit Artwork offers a fantastic opportunity for collectors to diversify their collections with important works from renowned artists.

Indigenous Art encompasses a variety of styles, practices and techniques from living cultures based outside of European, or Eurocentric traditions. Indigenous Art is the longest living art form in Canada, a highly dynamic form of art grown out of cultural continuity and expression, drawing upon themultilayered voices of people who have inhabited these lands for generations. Art is an integral part of the preservation and expression of culture, and Indigenous Art celebrates the heritage and traditions of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

Cowley Abbott is pleased to present a unique selection of commanding artworks by Indigenous artists, which reflect the customs and culture of the Indigenous in an array of art forms from sculpture, to textiles, to print works.

Bill Reid, “Eagle”

Bill Reid, Eagle

The fusion of Haida traditions with a modernist technique is quintessential to Bill Reid’s artwork, resulting in the creation of exquisite works ranging from the diminutive to the monumental. Reid mastered several media, including carving in silver, gold, wood and argillite, referring to himself as “a maker of things” rather than an artist. He crafted objects of adornment that were variations on traditional crest designs or identity symbols, such as this delicately carved pendant. “Eagle” exemplifies Reid’s mission to express the visual traditions of his ancestors in a contemporary form, mastering his complexity of three-dimensional forms. Reid had studied the culture and myths of the Haida in the course of his research, adapting carving designs and works illustrated in anthropological literature, seeking to reference the fundamental techniques of historical Haida art. The figure of the Eagle is an important being in the oral history of the Haida, respected for its intelligence and power as a hunter.

“Eagle” is an elegantly executed Haida-inspired design, related to a 1969 fossil ivory work, “Eagle Pendant” (Collection of Sherrard Grauer). As noted by Karen Duffek, “A pendant of fossil ivory made in 1969 presents the Eagle in a manner still related to past imagery but already hinting at Reid’s forthcoming carving, ‘The Raven Discovering Mankind in a Clamshell’ (1970, Museum of Anthropology, UBC). It is primarily in the finely carved feathers, the arched wings, and the configuration of two-dimensional elements that a continuity of image can be seen.

”Norval Morrisseau, “Thunderbird Young”

Norval Morrisseau, Thunderbird Young

Ground-breaking artist Norval Morrisseau, born in 1931 in Sandy Point Reserve, Ontario, worked beyond European- based conventions and drew from Anishinaabe cultural traditions to develop his powerful and unique artistic vision.Morrisseau was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts since 1970 and is celebrated founder of the Woodland School, which revitalized Anishinaabe iconography, traditionally incised on rocks and Midewiwin birchbark scrolls. A self-taught painter, printmaker, and illustrator,Morrisseau created an innovative vocabulary which was initially criticized in the Native community for its disclosure of traditional spiritual knowledge. Hiscolourful, figurative images delineated with heavy black form lines and x-ray articulations, were characteristically signed with the syllabic spelling of Copper Thunderbird, the name Morrisseau’s grandfather gave him.

“Thunderbird Young” is an excellent example of the artist’s signature kraft card artworks with emphasis on strong line, bold colour, and articulation of his cultural heritage through visual arts.

Kenojuak Ashevak “Owls in Evening Light” and “Timiatjuak”

Kenojuak Ashevak, Timiatjuak

Kenojuak Ashevak has created some of the most recognizable images in Canadian art. Images of bold graphic owls in fiery reds and ink blacks are some of the artist’s most popular works. Kenojuak embraced printmaking in the 1960s and 1970s after first beginning her drawing practice in the late 1950s in Kinngait (Cape Dorset). In 1961, she was the subject of a film produced by the National Film Board of Canada on her life and work, which was key to introducing the artist more globally. Kenojuak travelled around the world as an ambassador for Inuit art and won numerous awards and honours, including the Order of Canada, a Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, the Governor General’s Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts, and was the first Inuit artist to be inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Winnie Tatya, “Figures and Animals”

Winnie Tatya, Figures and Animals

Born in 1931, Winnie Tatya is a widely exhibited and celebrated multi-disciplinary artist who is recognized for her tapestry works of figures and animals. Often using brightly coloured felt to create the figures and animals, Tatya uses complementary embroidery floss to add pattern, design and texture to the works. Graphic in nature, the wall hangings make for beautiful storytelling pieces in “classically organized compositions…all tightly embroidered with great and rewarding care.” The artist has exhibited her works with the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of the Canadian Embassy organized by Arctic Inuit Art, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Bayly Art Museum at the University of Virginia, among many others. Her work resides in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Edmonton Art Gallery, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the University of Alberta, and the Inuit Cultural Institute, amongst many other prominent private collections.

A variety of stone sculptures by artists such as Sheokjuk Oqutaq, Kumukuluk Saggiak, Napachie Ashoona, Thomassie Tukai and Johnny Tunnillie are featured in the current online auction and make for wonderful three-dimensional additions to create a dynamic, varied and powerful collection of artwork.

For more information on this auction, our consignment process and details regarding our upcoming September Online Auction of Indigenous and Inuit Artwork, please contact us at [email protected] and one of our specialists would be delighted to assist you.

Literature Sources:

Robert Kardosh, “Works on Cloth, Imagery by artists of Baker Lake, Nunavut,” Marion Scott Gallery, 2002, page 10

Martine J. Reid, “Bill Reid Collected”, Douglas & McIntyre/ The Bill Reid Foundation, Toronto, 2016, page 83 for related work, “Eagle Pendant” (1969)

Karen Duffek, “Beyond the Essential Form”, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 1986, page 43

Peter L. Macnair, Alan L. Hoover and Kevin Neary, “The Legacy: Tradition andInnovation in Northwest Coast Indian Art”, Toronto/Vancouver, 1984, pages 85-86

Posted by & filed under Cowley Abbott Updates.

One would expect that there would be a significant number of Irish Canadian artists. The heritage and influence of Irish culture is one that is paramount to the history of Canada, with numerous Irish immigrants having moved to our country through the decades. As we explore Canadian art history and the artists who have shaped visual arts, three artists emerge who share a rich Irish heritage and have a celebrated legacy. 

Paul Kane, Fishing by Torch Light
Collection of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (912.1.10)

Paul Kane, a self-taught artist of the nineteenth century, is renowned for his paintings documenting Indigenous peoples and the landscape. Kenneth Lister writes in Paul Kane, The Artist: Wilderness to Studio, that we actually don’t learn of Paul Kane’s place of birth until after his death. Kane’s birthplace of Mallow, County Cork, Ireland was revealed in the introduction of the second edition of The Wanderings of an Artist Among the Indians of North America, published in 1925. Paul’s father, Michael Kane, was an Englishman who was stationed in Ireland with the R.H.A. and married an Irish girl named Frances Loach. After Michael Kane obtained his Corporal’s stripe, he and Frances settled in Ireland for a short period. Paul was born on September 3rd, 1810 and baptized in the church of St. James on September 16th, in Mallow Parish, County Cork. Interestingly Paul’s surname was listed as “Keane” in the registry. 

During the 19th Century, the British colony of what would become Canada was a popular destination for explorers and individuals seeking a new life, ruled by the Hudson’s Bay Company, but was a fairly unexplored land. Around 1819, Michael and Frances Kane immigrated to Canada with their children, settling in York (Toronto). Beginning in late May 1846, Paul Kane was commissioned to travel with the Hudson’s Bay Company to document the land, the Indigenous people and their customs. His depictions of the land and its people would be some of the first images Europeans would see of Canada and its Indigenous communities.

George Hart Hughes, Tobogganing Scene

George Hart Hughes was born on Christmas Day in Ireland in 1839. Information about the man and artist is sparse, but it is believed that Hughes started his working life as an engineer and is said to have studied under Cornelius Krieghoff, although there is no documentary proof of this. The possible influence of Krieghoff can certainly be witnessed in his compositions of moccasin sellers, habitants and trappers, informing our knowledge of historical Canadian painting. 

L.L.Fitzgerald, Apples & Greenhouse

Another Canadian artist with a connection to Ireland is Lionel Lemoine Fitzgerald. His father, Lionel Henry Fitzgerald was of Irish descent. L.L. Fitzgerald was invited to join the Group of Seven, after J.E.H. MacDonald’s death, to become the tenth member in 1932. He lived and worked mainly in Manitoba; his paintings and drawings displaying a wonderful balance between natural forms and geometric shapes. Examining his work, we can see not only the influence of the American Precisionist painters (Fitzgerald studied in New York at the Arts Students League in 1921-22), but also of Lawren Harris and the later work of Bertram Brooker.

The Irish have played a vital role in the settlement and development of Canada and our culture. Artists, musicians and performers with Irish heritage have enjoyed acclaim nationally and internationally for generations, these three artists just a few of the many creators whose families arrived in Canada many years ago. 

Sources: Kenneth R. Lister, Paul Kane: The Artist Wilderness to Studio, Royal Ontario Museum Press, 2010, Toronto & Dennis Reid, A Concise History of Canadian Painting, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 1988, Toronto