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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.