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

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A.J. Casson, Algonquin Park (Sampson Matthews silkscreen)

In conjunction with our popular February Online Auction of Works on Paper, Prints & Books, Cowley Abbott is delighted to present a special second session auction offering a selection of works from the Archives of Sampson-Matthews Ltd., which includes a variety of rare silkscreens from the Sampson-Matthews Silkscreen Project.

A niche collecting market within Canadian art, Sampson-Matthews silkscreens are bold and iconic images of the Canadian landscape and regional ways of life. Produced with high quality oil pigments, the silkscreens have stood the test of time. The vibrant colour and drama of these artworks, created by leading historical Canadian artists, provides an excellent opportunity for collectors to build their collection with the commanding imagery of Sampson-Matthews.

A lion in the printmaking industry, Sampson-Matthews was founded by Ernest Sampson, a pioneer of silkscreen printing in Canada, and Charles Matthews. The firm was a frequent stop for many artists working in the graphic arts and printmaking realms of art. Celebrated Canadian artists, such as A.Y. Jackson, A.J. Casson, and Franklin Carmichael all collaborated with the firm.

Joseph Sidney Hallam, The Log Drive (Sampson Matthews silkscreen)

One of the largest art projects in Canadian art history, the Sampson-Matthews Silkscreen Project was a defining moment in establishing the concept of ‘Canadian Art’ and a massive morale booster during the Second World War. As Joyce Zemans writes, this project was “largely responsible for shaping our notion of Canadian art and Canadian identity” (Zemans, 7). The pre-eminent printmaking firm in Canada, Sampson-Matthews Ltd., was the natural choice for a national art project.

Spearheaded by A.Y. Jackson in 1942, the project was designed primarily for military use and evolved into an educational program with the goal to make Canadian art accessible. Moreover, the project was designed to promote a national identity, as Canada was still a young country. As a war-artist during the First World War, Jackson saw first-hand not only the horrors of war, but the way in which the military was inextricably linked to national and cultural identity.

Jackson proposed that this project be targeted for military distribution to bases across Canada and throughout the world, eventually to expand into schools and social clubs. Over the course of the 30-year project, 118 images were produced by Sampson-Matthews, thirty-six of which were part of the wartime series. Thirty-six prints were produced after the Second World War in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada, and an additional fifteen images were produced with Sampson-Matthews after the National Gallery of Canada ceased their partnership in 1955. All of the prints were designed with between ten to twenty oil-based colours and to reflect Canadian life and the landscape, with geographic representation from across the country. 

Joseph Ernest Sampson, Gaspe (Sampson Matthews silkscreen)

Jackson, understanding the harsh realities for artists during periods of war and the limited opportunities for sustainable work, sought to involve both young and established artists in the project, as a way to promote their work and create jobs. In late 1943, the first series of twenty-five works were completed in a large format, measuring 30 x 40 inches. A smaller size was later produced for certain images to offer economical options for the public.

On the production side of the project, Chuck (Charles) Matthews and A.J. Casson oversaw the printing of the works. Collectors will sometimes find Casson’s signature in ballpoint pen in the lower corner or at the edge of a work, signifying that the artist personally oversaw the print’s production. 

Images from thirty-nine prominent Canadian artists were selected, including works by: Franklin Arbuckle, Harold Beament, Bertram Binning, Fritz Brandtner, Emily Carr, A.J. Casson, Paraskeva Clark, Albert Cloutier, Alan Collier, Charles Comfort, Rody Kenny Courtice, Berthe Des Clayes, Arthur Ensor, Frederick Stanley Haines, Joseph Sydney Hallam, Lawren Harris, Hilton Hassell, Yvonne McKague Housser, Jack Humphrey, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, Thoreau MacDonald, Isabel McLaughlin, James Wilson Morrice, L.A.C. Panton, Ruth May Pawson, Walter J. Phillips, Arthur Donald Price, Tom Roberts, Sarah Robertson, Albert Henry Robinson, Joseph Ernest Sampson, Tom Thomson, Stanley Francis Turner, Sydney Hollinger Watson, Horace Watson Wickenden and Dorothy Williams.

W.J. Phillips, Mount Eisenhower (Sampson Matthews silkscreen)

Through an international promotional campaign, thousands of prints found their way to the U.K., Germany, American bases, and even Russia. In 1943, Colonel C.R. Hill, Director of Special Services, noted that: “From a morale standpoint, these pictures have tremendous value. Perhaps particularly in the case of men who have been away from Canada for two or three years, the display of Canadian scenes will make them conscious of the land and cause for which they are called upon to fight. To those men who are still in Canada but who have to live under camp conditions, the pictures will bring a touch of beauty badly needed to counter act the dullness of their environment” (Zemans, 13). The project was living proof of the power of art and its ability to help define nationhood and art history in a pivotal moment in Canadian history.

Prints from the Sampson-Matthews project are wonderful tokens of Canadian art history and are regularly sought after by collectors. For new collectors entering the art market, the prints offer a perfect entry point to acquire an iconic image by a recognized Canadian historical artist. With unique ties to Canadian military and political history, the prints allow insight into the country’s early endeavours to define a national identity and build unification within a bourgeoning and diverse country.

A.J. Casson, Ontario Village (Sampson Matthews silkscreen)

Cowley Abbott is pleased to be entrusted with this collection from the Archives of Sampson-Matthews Ltd., comprised of a selection of unique prints from the Sampson-Matthews Silkscreen Project, as well as Canadian historical artworks and artifacts. For more information on this forthcoming auction and project, contact our specialists at 416-479-9703 or [email protected]


Joyce Zemans, “Envisioning Nation: Nationhood, Identity and the Sampson-Matthews Silkscreen Project: The Wartime Prints,” Journal of Canadian Art History, Vol. 19, no. 1 (1998) pages 6-51

The Sampson-Matthews Print Collection:

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

Cowley Abbott is pleased to launch into the new year with our January Online Auction of Post-War and Contemporary Art. Comprised of fantastic works by blue-chip Post-War Canadian artists, practicing Contemporary artists, and hidden gems, this sale offers the opportunity for new and seasoned collectors alike to build their collections.

We’ve highlighted a few of the great artists and artworks included in this thematic sale and their significance to the canon of Canadian art history. This dynamic auction offers buyers the opportunity to inject colour, vibrancy, and modern aesthetics into their collections, while allowing a complex dialogue between works over a range of styles, themes and movements.

Ecology and The Canadian Landscape

Steve Driscoll, Lagoon
Steve Driscoll, Lagoon

Two works of particular note in our auction are Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s ink drawing “Untitled” and Steve Driscoll’s mixed media “Lagoon”. Integral to both artist’s practice is the effect of human contact on the landscape.

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Untitled
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Untitled

Cowichan/Syilx First Nations contemporary artist, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun is one of the most sought-after artists in contemporary Canadian art. Yuxweluptun’s strategy is to document and promote change in contemporary Indigenous history, infusing his art with Coast Salish cosmology, Northwest Coast formal design elements, and the Western landscape tradition. His work incorporates components from Northwest First Nations art, as well as evocations of the Canadian landscape painting tradition derived from the Group of Seven. The figures included in his works are not necessarily representations of real people, but instead act as a visual comment on Indigenous identity within the Canadian physical and social landscape. This diminutive work, though small in scale, exemplifies complex and weighty theories of colonization, Indigenous identity, social politics and questions Canadian national identity.

Steve Driscoll, a Toronto-based artist, is known for his mesmerizing urethan-based paintings of bold neon colours morphing and marrying into each other, creating expressive representations of the Canadian landscape. Toronto-based curator Bill Clarke explains that Driscoll’s works are “More than just re-imaginings of the landscape, his paintings, materially and conceptually, also illustrate how advancements in technology are shaping our interactions with the world and supporting innovative approaches to art-making.” “Lagoon” offers a psychedelic close-up view of the shimmering surface of a lagoon, with the abstracted currents and fauna hypnotizing the viewer. We are pleased to be entrusted with this commanding work by an important contemporary artist.

Blue Chip Post-War Art

Yves Gaucher, Silences
Yves Gaucher, Silences

This auction introduces wonderful examples of works by celebrated Canadian Post-War artists. Aligned with the movements of Minimalism, hard-edge abstraction, conceptual art and bold expressionism, artworks by Yves Gaucher, Gershon Iskowitz, and Roy Kiyooka present an opportunity for collectors to diversify their collections with blue-chip artists who helped shape contemporary art practices.

Gershon Iskowitz, Untitled Abstraction
Gershon Iskowitz, Untitled Abstraction

Yves Gaucher’s “Silences” exemplifies the artist’s minimalist approach as a rebellion to conventions of printmaking. Calm tonalities, geometric form and expanse of space provide an arena for introspection. Whereas “Untitled” by Gerson Iskowitz offers a bold expressive space, highlighting the artist’s signature exploration of colour relationships. An artist with a distinct style of his own, not fully aligning with abstraction or representation exclusively, Iskowitz produced these fresh watercolour works throughout his career as an exploration of the limits of the medium and colour relationships. The resulting organic forms bleed into one another and float ethereally across the paper.

Roy Kiyooka, Abstraction
Roy Kiyooka, Abstraction

The experimental Roy Kiyooka is represented in the auction by two distinct works. The artist’s early 1959 experimental watercolour “Abstraction”, which oscillates between abstraction and representation, is in contrast to a more contemporary 1971 conceptual gelatin silver print “StoneDGloves”. The former exemplifies the young artist’s explorations with watercolour and abstraction under the influence and tutelage of Jock MacDonald at the provincial Institute of Technology and Art. “StoneDGloves” presents a dramatic shift towards conceptual art in photography. This work was a part of a photographic series taken by the artist at the construction sites of Osaka, Japan at the time of Expo ’70. Kiyooka photographed various discarded workmen’s gloves which had been petrified in cement on worksites. The series recalls art theories of trace and ephemerality while exploring the poetic relationship of human interaction with the evolution of the landscape. The Collection of the National Gallery of Canada holds 18 photographs from this series, including this image.

Pop Colour and Aesthetics

If you are looking to add a bold splash of colour to your collection or acquire playful op-art, works by Max Johnston, John MacGregor, and Burton Kramer would be perfect additions.

Max Johnston, Wholeness in a Collective Compression
Max Johnston, Wholeness in a Collective Compression

Max Johnston’s “Wholeness in a Collective Compression” is an excellent example of the artist’s experimentation with the limits of paint as a medium. Moving towards sculptural application of the paint, this piece showcases Johnston’s physical language of paint on the two-dimensional plane. A vibrant technicolour display, this piece instantly inspires energy while adhering to the modernist grid.

John MacGregor, Ripple Time (Multi-Colour)
John MacGregor, Ripple Time (Multi-Colour)

Throughout his practice, John MacGregor has investigated the effects of time on ordinary objects. Chairs, clocks, rooms, and objects are distorted on the image plane as a characterization of bending space and time. The artist explains:  

“I have always been fascinated by the concept of time. What it might be, how it is perceived, how it is represented and what it symbolizes. We live in a society that is structured and regulated by a symbol of time. We have come to accept this symbol as a valid and real expression of what time is. However, this acceptance has been at the expense of our intuitive and subjective feelings about time. Clocks have forced us to view time as detached, regimented and a structured entity that has a reality separate from ourselves. The equal intervals and numbers on the face of the clock further this perception.”

Both “Ripple Time (Multi-colour)” and “Squeezed Time” employ surrealist and op-art aesthetics of morphed and distorted objects in a play of the visual plane of depth and dimension. This manipulation of form represents the artist’s investigation of metric time as a modern social construct and the power it wields over our core functions. Playful and contemplative, the works immediately energize the viewing space and engage the viewer with their own temporal experiences.

Burton Kramer, Garden Music
Burton Kramer, Garden Music

Finally, Burton Kramer’s fresh geometric canvas entitled “Garden Music” brings forth memories of effervescent symphonies. The artist is famously known as the graphic designer for the iconic 1974 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation logo with the radiating, stylized ‘C’. Through his fine art practice, Kramer is renowned for his experiments with synesthesia of colour and music, exploring the language of visual forms and sound as the eye dances along the exuberant canvas of fresh pigments.

Cowley Abbott is delighted to be entrusted with a variety of rare and stunning works in the current Post-War and Contemporary Art Auction. The full catalogue of artworks included in our January online auction can be found here, presenting a plethora of paintings, sculpture, works on paper and innovative mixed media pieces by renowned artists. Contact our team for further details on this sale, the bidding process and how we can assist you to build your collection with Cowley Abbott.

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

The December 3rd Auction Telecast
An Image of the December 3rd Auction Telecast

Cowley Abbott, A Leader in the Canadian Auction Industry, Continues to Realize Strong Results for Canadian Historical, Post-War and Contemporary Art at Auction

The Cowley Abbott Fall Auction of Important Canadian Art on December 3rd was a resounding success, attaining excellent results and connecting collectors with superior artworks by renowned Canadian artists representing the country from coast to coast. In several instances, collectors participating over the telephone and online drove bidding to record levels, leading to the unprecedented values reached for select works by celebrated Canadian historical, post-war and contemporary artists.

Jack Bush, Column on Browns (1965)
Price Realized: $870,000 (Auction Record)
Jack Bush, Column on Browns (1965)
Price Realized: $870,000 (Auction Record)

A monumental masterwork by Jack Bush, Column on Browns, made its auction debut, soaring to a new world auction record of $870,000, after spirited bidding took place over multiple platforms. This captivating canvas was featured in major international exhibitions, including “Colorists 1950-1965” at the San Francisco Museum of Art and the Sao Paulo IX Biennial in 1967. The commanding work from Bush’s golden period of the mid-1960s was met with much admiration and excitement from the moment of the publication of the catalogue and is a remarkable addition to any discerning art collection. 

Jack Bush, Summer Gone (1976)
Price Realized: $90,000
Jack Bush, Summer Gone (1976)
Price Realized: $90,000

The auction house was delighted to be entrusted with another seminal work by Jack Bush, Summer Gone, the first triangle-shaped canvas executed by the artist as part of a series of shaped canvases in August 1976. The shape of Summer Gone is an irregular triangle with different lengths on all three sides, allowing Bush freedom from the restrictions of the traditional picture plane. Bush only created four triangle paintings, with this rare canvas selling for $90,000. 

Emily Carr, Forest Glade (Dark Glade)
Price Realized: $216,000
Emily Carr, Forest Glade (Dark Glade)
Price Realized: $216,000

Cowley Abbott was again delighted to offer numerous works by accomplished Canadian female artists, many of which garnered energetic bidding during the Fall Auction, notably Emily Carr’s Forest Glade (Dark Glade), reaching $216,000. This painting radiates with compositional energy, eloquently capturing Carr’s deep connection to the wild, untamed beauty of the forest. Rita Letendre, an electric and dazzling painter, demanded attention with three works by the celebrated artist selling well overestimate. Untitled reached $28,000 and Manotik sold for $20,400 – airbrushed compositions of forceful chevrons and diagonal bands of exploding colours, both from the most celebrated period of Letendre’s artistic oeuvre.  Dorothy Knowles, a beloved Saskatchewan painter, saw reward with the enigmatic canvases, The Noon Sun ($7,000) and Bright Weeds ($26,400). 

Tom Hodgson
Non Objective, Bluish
Price Realized: $60,000
(Auction Record)
Tom Hodgson
Non Objective, Bluish
Price Realized: $60,000
(Auction Record)

Further records were smashed in the December 3rd evening auction, with appreciation shown for Painter’s Eleven’s artist, Tom Hodgson. An energized, abstract masterpiece, Non Objective (Bluish), found a new home selling for $60,000, an auction record for the multitalented painter and athlete. Fellow member of the Painter’s Eleven abstract artist’s collective, Ray Mead, was much sought after in the lead-up to the auction, with Untitled, a 1959 painting fetching $15,600. 

Attention for historical Canadian art was strong, as Surf, Barbados, B.W.I by J.E.H. MacDonald commanded a final value of $21,600 and a dynamic, yet diminutive oil on board by J.W. Morrice, Coast, Brittany, sold for $45,600. Rain on the River (Morning on the River) by David Milne, a favourite artist amongst collectors, achieved $40,800. Ungava Bay by A.Y. Jackson, a sketch for a canvas in the collection of Hart House, hammered down at $48,000, representing the artist’s vision and connection to the Arctic landscape. Another success in the historical realm was Martello Tower, Montreal by Ethel Seath, selling for $24,000. 

Cowley Abbott was entrusted with a painting by the esteemed artist and physician, Sir Frederick Grant Banting. 2021 marks the centenary of the discovery of insulin by Banting, a momentous discovery that changed the lives of millions of people and for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1923. Island, French River, Ontario, suffused with colour, light and shadow, sold for $31,200, a brilliant result for this historical Canadian figure.

Alex Janvier, Shoreline Existence
Price Realized: $31,200 (Auction Record)
Alex Janvier, Shoreline Existence
Price Realized: $31,200 (Auction Record)

A founding member of the Professional Native Indian Artists, established in 1973, Dene and Anishinaabe (Salteaux) artist Alex Janvier of Cold Lake, Alberta, was an integral component of the auction. Shoreline Existence, a striking acrylic on canvas, set a new auction record at $31,200 after competitive bidding. 

Three automatic works by Jock Macdonald executed in 1947 well exceeded their pre-sale estimates with vigorous telephone bidding the night of the auction. Untitled (Two Creatures) sold for $6,600, Prehistoric World for $10,200 and New Fruit for $7,800. 

Jean Paul Riopelle, Dieppes (1965)
Price Realized: $130,500
Jean Paul Riopelle, Dieppes (1965)
Price Realized: $130,500

A prominent member of the Automatistes, Jean Paul Riopelle’s Dieppes (1966) sold for $130,500, while his small but mighty painting, Sans titre, 1970, had collectors clambering, achieving a final selling price of $52,800. The works of Ted Harrison were again met with avid interest – Yukon Priest selling for $19,200 and The Walk finding a buyer at $10,200.

The impressive results of the Fall Auction of Important Canadian Art are due to the active participation of both new and old bidders alike, as well as the unwavering support of the Canadian art community. We extend our sincere gratitude to the clients, bidders and buyers who helped to ensure that our Fall Live Auction was a triumph. 

A.Y. Jackson, Ungava Bay
Price Realized: $48,000
A.Y. Jackson, Ungava Bay
Price Realized: $48,000

The new year begins with an exciting season of online auctions, offering a wide range of artwork for all levels of collectors. The team at Cowley Abbott is already hard at work preparing the tremendous offerings to be presented in the Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art and we greatly look forward to sharing the catalogue in the coming months. Cowley Abbott is currently accepting consignments for its upcoming auctions and 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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Rare & Exceptional Work Spanning More Than A Century of Canadian Art Draws Competition From In-Person, Telephone & Online Bidders

The September 24th Cowley Abbott Fine Art Live Auction of Important Canadian and International Art held in the elegant Aria Ballroom of The Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville was a resounding success. Exceptional artworks by Canada’s pre-eminent historical, post-war and contemporary artists achieved strong results for consignors, while collectors were connected with artworks of rarity and quality. 

Frederick Banting, Cobalt (1932)
Price Realized: $44,840

Cowley Abbott was pleased to be entrusted with three significant works by the esteemed artist and physician, Sir Frederick Grant Banting. 2021 marks the centenary of the discovery of insulin by Banting, a momentous discovery that changed the lives of millions of people and for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1923. “Cobalt (1932)”, a striking canvas displaying Banting’s keen sense of colour, light and shadow sold for $44,840.  Two other paintings by the artist, including “Seville, Spain, 1933”, broke through its pre-sale estimate achieving $20,060, while “Birches, French River, 1930”, a quintessential work by the artist sold for $18,880. Brilliant results for this deserving historical Canadian icon. 

Cornelius Krieghoff, Skinner’s Cave and Owl’s Head Mountain, Lake Memphremagog
Price Realized: $47,200

The September live auction witnessed solid prices for a wide range of historical Canadian works of art, including the work of: A.Y. Jackson (“St. Tites des Caps” fetching $21,240 and “Sugar Shanty, L’Islet” selling for $24,780); Marc-Aurèle Fortin (“La Seine à Paris” selling for $8,850); David Milne (“Fox Hill on a Rainy Day, Boston Corners”, a rare watercolour executed in 1920 fetched $82,600) and Robert Pilot (“Autumn Landscape” selling for $17,700). Among the strong selection of historical Canadian artworks included in the sale were works entrusted from the collection of Senator E. Leo Kolber, including a rare canvas by Cornelius Krieghoff, “Skinner’s Cave and Owl’s Head Mountain, Lake Memphremagog”. The rugged grandeur, tightly observed detail and sublime drama of this painting injects the work with a high romanticism that only Cornelius Kreighoff could accomplish. This fresh to auction painting garnered much attention from collectors during our bustling previews, fetching $47,200. “The Fruit Shop, Ottawa” by Kathleen Moir Morris, another important work from the collection of Senator Kolber, sold for $73,337.

A key highlight in the auction were two exceptional watercolours by the celebrated Canadian artist, James Wilson Morrice. “Study for ‘The Pond, West Indies’” and “Study for ‘Village Street, West Indies’” are exemplary watercolours that showcase the artist’s technique and ability, acting as preparatory studies for the paintings in the collection of the Montreal Museum of Arts, which are among the best examples in the artist’s oeuvre. These special works made their debut at auction, finding new homes for over $22,000, respectively. 

Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Moose Pair)
Price Realized: $35,400

From the moment of publication of the auction online, interest and excitement surrounded three paintings by the renowned Indigenous artist, Norval Morrisseau. These fresh to auction works, all acquired directly from the artist, illustrate the artist’s powerful and unique style, drawn from Anishnaabe cultural traditions. Two striking paintings depicting Harriet Kakegamic, the artist’s wife, each sold for $25,960 after much spirited bidding, while the enigmatic and endearing “Untitled (Moose Pair)” soared to $35,400. 

Doris McCarthy, Iceberg and Floes
Price Realized: $47,200

Cowley Abbott was delighted to offer numerous works by accomplished Canadian female artists, many of which garnered lively bidding during the September auction, notably, Molly Lamb Bobak’s energetic,“The Bike Race”. This work drew strong attention during the live auction preview season and it did not take long for competitive bidding to push the work well beyond the pre-sale expectation of $5,000-7,000, hammering down for $17,700. “Summer Landscape” by Nora Collyer followed suit, selling for $18,800; the electric canvas, “Abstraction”, by Rita Letendre fetched $25,960; the respected and loved Doris McCarthy had two works included in the sale – “Iceberg & Floes”, from her sought after Arctic series, which sold for $47,200, and an early work, “Two Boats at Barachois” selling for $9,440; while Maud Lewis achieved another remarkable result with “Three Black Cats” reaching $18,800. 

Multiple key sculptures were featured in the September 24th catalogue auction, including two important bronzes by Sorel Etrog: “Petachon” sold for $8,260 and “Untitled” for $23,600. A dynamic steel sculpture by Walter Yarwood of Painter’s Eleven sold for $4,484. A beautifully carved 20th Century Chest, a popular object with collectors, soared to $14,160 after spirited bidding between the telephone and the room. 

Guido Molinari, Tri-sériel rouge (1967)
Price Realized: $82,600

A variety of Post-War and Contemporary offerings captivated visitors attending the Cowley Abbott gallery during previews prior to the September evening sale. Guido Molinari’s “Tri-Sériel Rouge”, a late addition to the sale, garnered avid attention fetching $82,600 over the telephone; Jean McEwen’s enigmatic “Tableaux sans paroles #3” sold for $59,000; “Snow Play” by Ted Harrison, a favourite amongst collectors, climbed to $14,160; a painterly landscape by Gordon Smith sold for $23,600; Paterson Ewen’s “Untitled” fetched $14,160 and a quintessential work by Kazuo Nakamura sold for $28,320. 

The Atlantic magic realists exceeded expectations with Tom Forrestall’s shaped canvas, “Orchard” selling for a final price of $9,440 and Christopher Pratt’s “1887 Orange 13 Cent Stamp” hammering down for $12,980 after competitive bidding. 

We extend our thanks to the clients, bidders and buyers who helped to ensure that our September 24th Live auction was a triumph. We are already preparing a very exciting catalogue for the December Live Auction and look forward to sharing it with you. The fall auction season continues with The Canadian Landscape Online Auction running from October 20th-27th, followed by the November Auction of Canadian and International Art from November 10th-24th, taking place concurrently with the December Live Auction. 

Cowley Abbott is currently accepting consignments for its upcoming auctions and 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]

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

Cowley Abbott’s Live Auction of Important Canadian and International Art, taking place on September 24th at the Royal Ontario Museum, includes numerous works by celebrated Canadian female artists. Women artists have had a monumental impact on Canadian art throughout the decades. These accomplished artists have enriched the practice of visual art with their unique voices and distinctive artistic styles, developing an important facet within the Canadian art world. The breadth and talent of these female artists, and their significance in the past, present and future, is essential to the captivating story of Canadian art-making and collecting.

Rita Letendre, Abstraction (1974)
Rita Letendre, Abstraction (1974)

The critically acclaimed Rita Letendre, a prominent abstract artist, born of Abenaki and Quebecois heritage, has had a significant artistic career of various stylistic periods, spanning decades and various geographic placements. Letendre’s career in painting was cemented in Montreal in the 1950s when she became associated with two prominent abstract groups in Quebec, Les Automatistes and Les Plasticiens. Letendre was often the sole female artist within the shows for these groups, and eventually developed away from their approach to painting, finding it too restrictive. 

Letendre’s large canvases of the 1970s explore her fascination with depicting speed and vibration. The use of airbrushed paint creates a dimension of depth in “Abstraction” (lot 48), while the dramatic shift in palette occurs when the black ‘arrow’, framed by two vivid neon green and bright pink stripes, constrained by turquoise and azure bands, slices through the surface of the work. The sharp lines of bright colour all converge to a single point at the tip of the black ‘arrow’ in these works, magnifying and concentrating the energy. Like the birth of a supernova, light and energy burst forth from the image plane in “Abstraction”.

Joyce Wieland, Conversation Piece (1960)

Joyce Wieland studied design at Central Technical School in Toronto, before working as a graphic designer in the early 1950s and developing her practice in visual art. Wieland lived and worked with other artists in Toronto, eventually meeting the noted Canadian artist, Michael Snow, who she went on to marry. Wieland’s artistic career began to develop in 1960 when she held her first solo show after being included in a number of group shows. We recognize Wieland’s contribution to Canadian art for her experimentation with film, and her numerous paintings, assemblages, and mixed media works depicting themes of erotism and feminism.  

Between 1959 and 1960, Wieland set up a proper studio space, purchased canvases and supplies and started executing larger scale works. Representing the first suggestion of her artistic future, the provocative works often featured phalluses, vaginas and hearts rendered in a humorous cartoon-like representation. Exploring this new lexicon, Wieland called these works her “sex poetry”. During a time where the female subjugation from her male contemporaries was celebrated, Wieland turned the tables and gazed at the male with the same liberty and lust automatically afforded to these male artists. “’Conversation Piece’ with a Short on Sailing” (lot 51) exemplifies this cheeky and boundary pushing question of gender politics. 

Molly Lamb Bobak, The Bike Race

A trailblazer for women in the arts in Canada, Molly Lamb Bobak was an official war artist, stationed in England during the Second World War. Bobak had initially enlisted as a draftswoman in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC), documenting the day to day activities of her fellow corps members. Having exhibited at the Canadian Army Art exhibition in 1944, Bobak was awarded a prize for her work leading to her appointment as a war artist between 1945 and 1946. 

Bobak often gravitated towards depictions of crowd scenes, as she was inspired by the celebratory victory parades of the Allied Forces at the end of the war. The communal gathering and subsequent energy created in a crowd fascinated the artist and this interest was further explored when Bobak returned to Canada to begin teaching at the University of New Brunswick. Frequenting pubs, sporting events, parades and student rallies, the campus environment offered Bobak ample inspiration and the opportunity to capture the essence of the crowd scene unfolding. “The Bike Race” (lot 2) is a charming work; the canvas captures the movement and frenzy of a bike race, as cyclists round a corner with exaggerated leaning bodies and dots of bright colour stipple the landscape.

Dorothy Knowles, Reeds (1979)

Dorothy Knowles grew up on a farm overlooking a Prairie valley in Saskatchewan and initially had no plans to become a painter, studying biology at the University of Saskatchewan. At the time of her graduation, a friend persuaded her to enroll in a six-week summer course given by the University of Saskatchewan at Emma Lake, where Knowles found a proclivity for art. Her participation in the Emma Lake Workshops in the late 1940s through to the 1960s greatly influenced and encouraged her interest in landscape painting. 

In the 1960s Knowles discovered the importance of working directly from nature, while also employing the use of sketches and photographs to finish her work in the studio. Her paintings capture the richness of the Prairie landscape through exploration of colour and texture. In “Reeds” (lot 71), Knowles transmits the diverse natural environment of the landscape. Often associated with paintings of expansive flat fields of wheat, Knowles brings a fresh approach to capturing her native landscape, exploring an impressionistic view of a diverse marshy landscape.

Nora Collyer, Summer Landscape

In 1921 Nora Collyer joined fellow Art Association of Montreal graduates at their studio at 305 Beaver Hill Hall. This association of artists called themselves the Beaver Hall Group. The three-story house offered the artists inexpensive studio space and a large room on the ground floor, which served as their exhibition gallery. The Beaver Hall group of modernist painters had a distinctive style rooted in the life and culture of Montreal and Quebec. 

Growing up in Montreal with English Protestant parents, Collyer was imbued with a strong sense of community and gravitated towards depicting village landscapes and tokens of rural communities. With a richly composed foreground and a distant village depicted by the shore, “Summer Landscape” (lot 68) is executed with bold colour and rhythmic form, expressing her love of the region. 

Kathleen Morris, The Fruit Shop, Ottawa

Kathleen Moir Morris studied under William Brymner and Maurice Cullen at the school of the Art Association of Montreal, and became a prominent member of the Beaver Hall Group in 1920. Working in oil, her subjects include landscape, genre, street and market scenes, as well as cabstands throughout Montreal and its environs. Morris was born with a physical disability, but refused to let it prevent her from painting outdoors in all seasons. After her father passed away in 1914, Morris moved to Ottawa with her mother a few years later, residing in a house on O’Connor Street from 1922 to 1929. The painter maintained an active presence in the Montreal art scene while living in Ottawa, continuing to participate in Beaver Hall exhibitions as well as those of the Canadian Group of Painters.

Morris would have frequented the Byward Market, still a bustling and popular destination to this day. In “The Fruit Shop, Ottawa” (lot 17), she depicts the sun shining on a fruit stand, busy with market goers in stylish 1920s attire. The crates of produce are colourful and warmly lit, as is the teal awning framing the upper border of the composition. Morris chose a bright and modern palette, synonymous with her body of work and that of the Beaver Hall Group. She painted from sketches, in which she simplified the forms and applied colour in bold, thick patches, visible in the faceless figures and abstracted fruit and vegetables.

Laura Muntz, The Handmaiden (1900)

Laura Muntz, born in Warwickshire, England, and came to Canada as a child with her family to settle on a farm in the backwoods of the Muskoka District. She became a school teacher in Hamilton, Ontario, and in her spare hours took art classes. With money saved from her teaching job she studied for a short time at the South Kensington School of Art, England about 1887. She returned to Canada and spent the next seven years earning money for study in Paris at the Academie Colorossi. Muntz also travelled in Holland and Italy and at the end of seven years returned to Toronto and opened a studio. 

Muntz was first exposed to the tenets of Impressionism while undertaking artistic training in Paris from 1891-1898. She then adopted the use of light and open, fluid brushwork in her own compositions. The rich tones of Muntz’s swift brushwork in “Girl with Blue Bowl” (lot 58) creates a sensation of gentleness and warmth, reflecting Muntz’s genuine interest in the aesthetic representation of children. Although sadly childless herself, Muntz lived a life surrounded by children. She was a schoolteacher upon moving to Canada, and later became the caregiver of her deceased sister’s eleven children. Muntz’s depiction of domestic scenes not only reveal a consistent study of her most treasured subjects, women and children, but illustrate the female experience of Canada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Maud Lewis, Sandy Cove

Maud was born in South Ohio, a community near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Born disfigured with sloped shoulders and her chin resting on her chest, Maud led a confined but happy home life after she quit school at 14. Physical deformity may have been her lot, but even more tragic was the loss of both her parents within two years. Thankfully, an aunt who lived in Digby took her in. There she would later answer a newspaper ad that would determine the course of her life. A man named Everett Lewis wanted a housekeeper for his cottage in Marshalltown. She married him in 1938 at the age of thirty-four and would never travel more than an hour’s drive from her birthplace. Maud gathered images from her happy childhood and limited excursions in a Model T with Everett to paint cheerful images on dust pans, scallop shells and even on her house. They would settle into a routine where Everett enjoyed peddling and haggling over the paintings Maud would love to paint. The happiness she painted first attracted neighbours, then tourists and eventually even international attention. It started with a Star Weekly newspaper article and then a 1965 CBC Telescope program featuring her unique works. Her notoriety began to bloom and orders came in so fast that the paint hardly had time to dry. 

Maud Lewis, Three Black Cats

The simplicity of Maud Lewis’ paintings, brushed initially with scrounged paint from local fishermen onto ubiquitous green boards and postcards, continue to evoke feelings of innocence, of child-like exuberance as enduring as the spring times she loved to paint. Her works, such as “Three Black Cats” (lot 61) and “Sandy Cove” (lot 62) continue to capture audiences intrigued by everyday scenes as diverse as three black cats, hard-working oxen, whimsical butterflies and harbour scenes. 

Henrietta Mabel May, Farmstead, Eastern Townships

Following studies at the Art Association of Montreal, Mabel May and fellow graduate, Emily Coonan, travelled to France to study. She and Coonan travelled widely in Europe, visiting galleries, museums and sketching, becoming a devote of the Impressionists. Upon her return to Montreal, and with her fellow AAM graduates, May helped establish the Beaver Hall Group in 1920, and in 1933 she became a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters. 

Embracing the francophone tradition of depicting inhabited landscapes, “Farmstead, Eastern Townships” (lot 65) showcases May’s ability to arrange colour to accentuate the weighty mass of the farm structures, while maintaining a sense of lightness in the warm colour palette. Bold strokes of red, ochre and chartreuse imbue the work with warmth, light and vibrancy, highlighting the beauty of the rural scene.

Doris McCarthy, Iceberg & Floes (1998)

Doris McCarthy – lot 8 and lot 87 images and cataloguing 

Born in Calgary and raised in Toronto, Doris McCarthy is recognized as one of Canada’s foremost landscape painters. A teacher at both the Ontario College of Art and Central Technical School, McCarthy spent most of her life living and working in Scarborough, Ontario though she enjoyed many painting adventures across Canada and abroad. In some instances, McCarthy painted on site, and other times she took photographs to refer to later in her studio. 

Doris McCarthy, Two Boats at Barachois (1934)

Painting mainly in oils and watercolours, McCarthy developed a personal style that was consistently praised for its vitality, boldness and skillful explorations of hard-edged angles, form and colour. “Two Boats at Barachois” (lot 87) demonstrates this confidence and the aptitude of McCarthy’s brush. McCarthy is probably best-known for her Canadian landscapes and her depictions of Arctic icebergs. In 1972, the year of her retirement from teaching, Doris made her first of many trips to the Canadian Arctic. McCarthy was fascinated with the topography of this territory and the new painting opportunities it provided her. Her paintings of icebergs and the Arctic landscape, including “Iceberg & Floes” (lot 8), are considered to be among the artist’s best known and most celebrated works. 

Posted by & filed under Cowley Abbott Updates, How to.

Navigating the art market can be both an exciting and a daunting task for new buyers, experienced collectors and art market professionals. With a plethora of commercial galleries, online purchase platforms and auctions seemingly running 24/7, the buying options are limitless. At Cowley Abbott, we prioritize exceptional customer service and take pride in assisting our clients find the perfect artwork to either add to or begin their collection. In this article we will look at some key factors to consider when looking to start, build or mature your art collection, as well as the benefits of buying at auction.

Christopher Pratt, Girl on my Couch (1984)

Where to Start?

Of course, one’s aesthetic taste is an obvious starting point. When a client inquires about what artist, time period or style of art they should collect, we encourage first to scan galleries, auctions and online resources to pinpoint what naturally appeals. Once there is a clear idea of an overall genre, style or even a particular artist that a collector wants to focus on, this establishes a solid foundation to build upon. Investment and future value are the next factors to consider. Although collecting art is an emotional and subjective process for collectors, the financial aspect of collecting is a natural and valid query. Invariably, the next question asked is, which artist or artwork will hold value over time.  There is no crystal ball to consult to ensure that an artist or artwork will maintain its economic value, just as there is no guarantee that one’s financial investments will hold steady without change. However, auction, by virtue of its transparency, establishes a sense of confidence. Estimates and hammer prices reflect the realistic expectations of the secondary market for an artwork and artist, no matter a collector’s budget.

Jean Paul Riopelle, Feuilles VI (1967)

New collectors often seek an understanding of the art market before committing to their first purchase. This strategy takes into account a collector’s taste and shifting art market trends. Bearing this in mind, works on paper by major artists who trade at auction are an excellent buying option for new collectors.  Typically, works on paper, such as drawings, watercolours and prints, offer a lower financial entry point and are an excellent example of the artist’s production, while allowing the collector to inform their aesthetic taste. Canadian artists, such as Jack Bush and Christopher Pratt, produced works on paper in tandem with their painting, developing fascinating and sometimes unique, experimental testimonials to their overall practice. “Sash”, “Totem” and “Thrust”, prints by Jack Bush, offer bright renderings closely linked to both his works in gouache and his large canvases. Similarly, Pratt’s graphite drawings of nude models and interiors are often the basis for both his coveted print works and paintings, functioning as intentional works of their own. Works on paper offer an incredible opportunity to understand the technical process of an artist. Notes on colour, shading, location and even the time of day can be conveyed, providing a unique insight into completed works by the artist.

As a new collector, the benefit to both monitoring and participating in auctions is accessibility to the wide variety of works included in these auctions, either online or live. A collector can study the online auction catalogues, view multiple images of the works included, request condition reports on specific artworks and compare artworks to navigate their own interests and taste. At Cowley Abbott, we offer dedicated sales of Works on Paper, taking place in February and July, offering an exceptional opportunity to begin collecting or build upon an established collection.

I know what I like, how do I navigate value?

Jack Bush, Purple Thrust

Researching and learning more about major art movements, artist collectives, groups and periods all contribute to a more well-rounded understanding of the cultural value of artworks. This aids in further distilling a collector’s taste; perhaps gravitating to one artist of a major group over another and establishing a more finite point to begin collecting.

Navigating the estimates applied to artworks is an integral component to collecting. When auction houses ascribe estimates to artworks, the value is based upon past results for an artist at auction. Our specialists research comparable works by the artist, taking into account various attributes, such as medium, dimensions, style, overall quality and period for the artist. Hammer prices and auction estimates for these comparable pieces are taken into consideration in order to provide realistic expectations for artworks offered at auction. This recognized practice of valuation establishes greater transparency for new collectors navigating the auction market.

The Basics of Understanding Value

ArtTactic professionals have broken down the stages of an artist’s trajectory in order to measure the relationship between the cultural and economic value of their work within the art market. The following factors are considered when offering an artwork at auction, allowing further insight into how and why specific artwork by an artist may achieve a higher value.

  1. Formation Phase
    1. Art School
    2. Grad Show
    3. Local collector interest / exhibiting with smaller or younger galleries
    4. Art Fair showing
    5. Curator interest
    6. International interest (though less so with Canadian art given the regional market)
    7. Reputable Artist Prizes
  1. Expansion Phase
    1. Move to representation with established gallery / solo exhibition
    2. Acquisitions by major collectors
    3. International solo exhibition
    4. AUCTION DEBUT—works selling above expectation
  1. Consolidation Phase
    1. Strong and Consistent auction market activity
    2. Consistent commercial and museum exhibition activity

Further factors to consider include condition, quality, characteristics of the artwork, the provenance and, to an extent, rarity. Though rarity can aid in increasing the value of an artwork — for instance if the work is a sketch or panel for an important work by the artist — it can also have an adverse effect (ex. an artwork depicting a floral still life by an artist who is celebrated for their work in abstraction). For new collectors, it is an important component to be mindful of, as rarity can equate to a smaller pool of collector interest should one seek to sell in the future to mature a collection or should aesthetic tastes change.

These factors are guidelines to understanding established value, how specialists arrive at estimates, and driving forces for market trends. If there is a strong emotional draw to an artwork, collectors should trust their instincts and collect works that they will enjoy and that will enrich their collections.

How can Cowley Abbott assist?

Our monthly online auctions are an opportunity for a collector to ‘check’ the pulse of the market and dabble in their own collection journey. Interested collectors are invited to monitor the progress of our auctions and the performance of a specific artwork with no obligation to bid or participate. Our easy to navigate website offers a comfortable and convenient environment to participate should a collector wish, while our team of specialists are available to assist with any questions or concerns regarding artworks, or the auction process. The artworks included in the online auctions are available to preview at our gallery, and we invite you to visit us to view the works in person (should you be in the Toronto area or find yourself here visiting during our previews).

Guido Molinari, Untitled (Vertical blanc)

Our live auction of Important Canadian Art, which takes place in the spring and fall each calendar year, offers fresh insight into the auction world. We invite clients and collectors to experience the excitement of a live auction, as the event is open to the public and there is no obligation to participate. We provide extended gallery preview times to view the artworks included in these auctions to accommodate travel and scheduling realities, while flexible bidding options are available (in-person, absentee and telephone). The opportunity to view and engage with rare, museum-quality works is a privilege we love to share with our clients.

Our boutique firm specializes in Canadian Fine Art and our team of experienced and trained professionals is available to answer your collecting queries. We emphasize transparency in our business and market discussions with clients. We publish the price realized for all artworks sold at auction, partnering with global art market indexes, and provide full cataloguing information for all artworks we are entrusted with for sale. We strive to provide clients and collectors with the highest level of service, and we would be delighted to assist you in your collecting journey!

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

Molly Lamb Bobak, Highland Games, Fredericton
Price Realized: $100,300 (Auction Record)

Through the November and December live and online auctions, Cowley Abbott achieved strong results for consignors, with multiple records broken, while connecting collectors at all levels with artwork of quality and rarity.

The Cowley Abbott Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art drew a standing-room only audience to the Gardiner Museum on Tuesday, November 19th, the gallery packed with collectors who drove bidding to record levels in several instances through successful sales of select work by Canada’s celebrated historical, post-war and contemporary artists.

Jean Paul Lemieux, Basse messe, dimanche
Price Realized: $330,400

Jean Paul Lemieux’s Basse messe, dimanche, an expansive and immersive museum-level canvas by the key figure of Canadian modernity, captivated visitors to the Cowley Abbott gallery during the weeks of previewing that led to November evening sale. When bidding concluded, the artwork had fetched $330,400, a solid result for the mature work which was featured on the front cover of the fall auction catalogue.

From the moment of publication of the auction online, excitement surrounded Molly Lamb Bobak’s Highland Games, Fredericton, a large and energetic canvas, portraying a celebratory and energetic scene, a subject which has proven to be Bobak’s most popular with collectors. When the artwork reached the podium, it did not take long for feverish bidding to push competition well beyond pre-sale expectation. When the gavel finally fell, a new auction record had been established for the painter, the final bid reaching $100,300 (all prices include the 18% Buyer’s Premium), more than tripling the pre-sale estimate.

William Kurelek, Pioneer Homestead on a Winter’s Evening
Price Realized: $82,600

The work of William Kurelek also drew strong attention during the fall live auction season. Two paintings appeared at auction with Cowley Abbott for the first time, consigned by the original Toronto collector, who owned them for almost fifty years. The quality and rarity of the pair of paintings led to Pioneer Homestead on a Winter’s Evening fetching $82,600 (exceeding the high-end of expectation) and Brothers selling for $95,000. The strong results continue Cowley Abbott’s tradition of success in the sale of important work by the Ukrainian-Canadian artist.

The November live auction witnessed solid prices for a wide range of historical Canadian works of art, including the work of: Cornelius Krieghoff (Hudson Bay Trader fetching $47,200); André Biéler (The Market Stall almost doubling the high-end auction estimate to sell for $29,500); Frederick Banting (Inlet, French River selling for $28,320); Clarence Gagnon (La Mare, Baie St. Paul, a 1920 sketch related to a canvas in the National Gallery of Canada, sold for $23,600); and P.C. Sheppard (St. Lawrence Market fetching $23,600), among many others.

Jean McEwen, Rose traversant les jaunes
Price Realized: $88,500

A variety of Post-War and Contemporary offerings also drew competitive bidding during the fall catalogue sale, notably: Jean McEwen’s Rose traversant les jaunes (the canvas fetching $88,500, more than four times the opening bid); Gordon Smith’s West Coast #2 (exceeding the high-end of expectation, selling for $40,120); Autumn Foothills by Takao Tanabe (selling for $37,760); Sorel Etrog’s Small Chair (Hand) (fetching $28,320), Marcel Barbeau’s 1947 Dents de sable à cran d’acier(in excess of the auction estimate’s upper range, selling for $23,600); and Ronald York Wilson’s Untitled (the large canvas almost doubling the auction estimate, achieving $22,420).

The success of the November live auction continued in the subsequent November and December online sessions, where bidders across Canada and beyond competing for a wide range of work that catered not only to seasoned collectors, but also to new and intermediate clients, continuing to establish their collections.

Franklin Arbuckle, True Lover’s Leap, Newfoundland
Price Realized: $30,680 (Auction Record)

Franklin Arbuckle’s True Lover’s Leap, Newfoundland inspired great excitement nation-wide when the canvas was added to the Cowley Abbott website. The rare and dramatic east coast landscape by the celebrated painter had remained in the same private collection since 1964, Alfred Upton delighted to receive the painting as a retirement gift from Dominion Life Assurance. Upton loved the painting and requested the painting when given the option to choose a token of appreciation when his time with the firm finished. The painting had been purchased by Dominion Life in 1949 to be featured in their yearly calendar that annually featured the work of a different Canadian artist. The work was chosen, in consultation with A.J. Casson, for its quality and also to commemorate Newfoundland joining confederation. True Lover’s Leap, Newfoundland had been exhibited in the 1949 Royal Canadian Academy showing at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and was not only reproduced in the exhibition’s catalogue, but was also noted in a Gazette article which discussed the annual show. The debut of the canvas at Cowley Abbott once again had the painting drawing media attention, with a two Newfoundland Telegram articles (found here and here) that followed its record-breaking performance during the auction. The artwork sold for $30,680, more than five times its opening bid and more than double the previous auction record for Franklin Arbuckle’s work.

Rita Letendre, Antares Glows
Price Realized: $28,320

Rita Letendre’s Antares Glows also excited collectors during the online sessions to end the year, the dramatic 1969 canvas selling for $28,320 (exceeding the high end of expectation). Online bidding was furious through the two auctions, leading to stellar prices for artist across the many periods, schools and associations through Canadian history, with results of note including the work of: F.M. Bell-Smith, Frank Armington, A.J. Casson; Frederick Loveroff; Mary Wrinch; Manly MacDonald; Stanley Turner; M.A. Fortin; Malcolm Rains; Jean Paul Riopelle; Art McKay; David Urban; Ron Bloore; Doug Morton; Ken Lochhead; Ted Harrison; Chris Pratt; Maud Lewis; Allen Sapp; and Joe Fafard.

We extend our thanks to the clients, bidders and buyers who helped to ensure that 2019 was another very successful year for Cowley Abbott. We are already preparing a very exciting schedule of sales for 2020 and look forward to sharing it with you.

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

Jean Paul Lemieux, Basse messe, dimanche

Basse messe, dimanche by Quebec Master, Lemieux is among historical and post-war auction highlights from Consignor Canadian Fine Art, now Cowley Abbott

October 23, 2019 (Toronto, ON) – An exceptional opportunity to own a major canvas by one of Canada’s most celebrated painters is up for auction from Cowley Abbott (formerly Consignor Canadian Fine Art) as part of its semi-annual Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art, taking place Tuesday, November 19 at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum. Presenting key work by Canada’s preeminent historical and post-war artists, many of which will be going under the hammer for the first time, the newly minted Cowley Abbott will also be celebrating the rebrand of the auction house under the monikers of its principals, Canadian auction industry veterans Rob Cowley and Lydia Abbott.

Jean Paul Lemieux’s Basse messe, dimanche (Low Mass, Sunday), painted in the classic style for which the artist is most celebrated, will make its auction debut with an estimate of $300,000 – $500,000. Basse messe, dimanche is a stunning canvas that depicts a group of parishioners exiting a church in the early morning, exposed to the winter cold under the harsh light of a white moon. Measuring nearly eight feet wide, the painting is one of the largest of the period by a key figure in Canadian modernity. Imbued with themes of Nordic sensibility and melancholy, Lemieux drew inspiration from memories of a bygone era in which Quebec traditions, customs, and popular religious beliefs gave life and structure to the artist’s community.

“It is our privilege to introduce Basse messe, dimanche to the public for the first time at auction,” said Rob Cowley, President, Cowley Abbott. “This commanding, stunning canvas provides Jean Paul Lemieux’s classic view of Quebec and Canadian culture, effectively capturing themes of community, faith and isolation across an expansive winter landscape. The rich colour and larger-than-life characters that occupy the spectacular composition have stopped collectors in their tracks during early previews of this important painting by one of our country’s most renowned painters.”

The fall auction also provides a chance to own a piece of Canadian history, with a rare work on offer by Canadian scientist, physician, painter and Nobel Prize recipient Sir Frederick Banting. European Landscape (1925) was painted during his trip to Europe where he accepted the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his involvement in the discovery of insulin; and the work provides a rare glimpse from Banting at the point of receiving the highest honour in his field. As the then youngest laureate and first Canadian to receive the prestigious prize, Banting was also named Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” on the cover of its August 1923 issue, making him a renowned figure of scientific progress around the world. The painting has a distinguished provenance that includes being privately owned by members of the Banting family, and is accompanied by a letter from Banting’s son detailing the piece’s history and the trip during which the painting was created. European Landscape has a pre-auction estimate of $20,000 – $30,000, which Cowley Abbott anticipates could exceed expectations.

Multiple key works by William Kurelek will be featured in Cowley Abbott’s fall live auction including Pioneer Homestead on a Winter’s Evening (1971). Housed in a custom frame made by Kurelek, the painting depicts a Ukrainian woman drawing water from a well on the Canadian prairie in winter, and is an exemplary showcase of the artist’s characteristic themes and subject matter related to immigration, farming on the Prairies, Ukrainian heritage, and the harsh beauty of the Western Canadian landscape. The painting comes from the private collection of a Ukrainian-Canadian family in Toronto with an auction estimate of $50,000 – $70,000.

From the same collection comes Brothers, a larger winter farming painting by William Kurelek that has an auction estimate of $100,000 – $150,000. Commissioned by the family following their purchase of Pioneer Homestead on a Winter’s Evening, the composition presents two brothers walking together on a vast Prairie landscape, distantly following their father upon a horse-drawn sleigh.

“Our Fall Auction of Important Canadian Art features striking and rare examples by our country’s illustrious painters, sculptors and print-makers. Entrusted to our firm from Canadian and International private and corporate collections, it is a pleasure for our team to present these fantastic works to the collecting public, in many cases for the first time.” – Lydia Abbott, Vice-President, Cowley Abbott

Other notable artworks featured in Cowley Abbott’s Fall Live Auction include:

  • A 1936 painting by Emily Carr depicting the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is a richly coloured work alive with the movement of the ruggedly beautiful British Columbia landscape. The painting comes from a United States private collection, available at auction for the first time with an estimate of $125,000 – $175,000
  • Two rare canvasses by 19th century master Cornelius Krieghoff, bothfrom a private collection: Indian Encampment by a River Autumn (1849) is being offered with a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 -$80,000 and Hudson Bay Trader (1845-47) at $40,000 – $60,000
  • La Mare, Baie St. Paul, a 1920 oil on panel by Quebec painter Clarence Gagnon. This panel, a sketch for The Pond in October housed in the National Gallery of Canada’s permanent collection, is being offered with an estimate of $15,000 – $20,000
  • A trailblazer for women in the arts in Canada, Molly Lamb Bobak’s Highland Games, Fredericton is expected to excite collectors with its colourful and heavily populated setting during the city’s Highland Games Festival. This large 40” x 48” canvas is likely to exceed its pre-sale estimate of $30,000 – $50,000
  • One of Canada’s earliest and most renowned champions of abstraction, Bertram Brooker’s Autumn Bouquet makes its first appearance at auction, subject to a $20,000-30,000 estimate. Cowley Abbott set an auction record for a work by Brooker in the fall of 2018, Delta Ice House more than tripling its opening bid to fetch $82,600

Historical offerings in the auction also include the workof the Group of Seven, Sybil Andrews, J.W. Beatty, André Biéler, J.W. Morrice, P.C. Sheppard, M.A. Suzor-Coté, Robert Pilot and Frederick Verner.

Post-War Contemporary and Abstraction artists are also strongly represented in the sale with works by David Blackwood, Jack Bush, Greg Curnoe, Sorel Etrog, Paterson Ewen, Joe Fafard, Betty Goodwin, Ted Harrison, Gershon Iskowitz, Maud Lewis, John Little, Jean McEwen, Norval Morrisseau, Kazuo Nakamura, William Perehudoff, Bill Reid, Goodridge Roberts, Otto Rogers, Gordon Smith and Takao Tanabe.

Live previews will take place at the Cowley Abbott Gallery located at 326 Dundas Street West (located across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario) beginning the weekend of Art Toronto – Friday, October 25. Cowley Abbott’s Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art will take place on Tuesday, November 19 at 7 p.m. EST at the Gardiner Museum located at 111 Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON.

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), a celebrated depiction of Kensington Market by William Kurelek (Hot Day in Kensingon Market, sold for $472,000), and Jack Bush’s Summer Lake, which broke online auction records in May 2014 for the most expensive painting by a Canadian artist to be sold in an online auction ($310,500). Their inaugural live auction event in May 2016 set the record for the highest-selling Algoma sketch by Lawren Harris, fetching $977,500, tripling the previous auction record.

Cowley Abbott is currently accepting consignments for its upcoming auctions. Cowley Abbott offers all-inclusive selling commissions and the lowest buyer’s premium in the industry. 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].