Peter popped across the road recently to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario and take a closer look at the Cornelius Krieghoff interior scenes within their permanent collection. These paintings share many similarities in terms of subject matter, rich detail and narrative tone to “French Canadian Habitants Playing at Cards”, the important canvas included in Cowley Abbott’s Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art on June 15th.
One of the artworks I admire in the Spring Live Auction is Bertram Brooker’’s “Still Life (Variation No. 3)“. This work was one of two still-life paintings by Brooker included in the 1938 CNE exhibition in the “Canadian Small Pictures” section. Brooker’s “Variation No. 3” appears to be an abstract version of the second painting, which depicted an arrangement of cabbage and peppers on white paper, a white tablecloth and a brown paper bag. It appears that Brooker wanted to demonstrate in the exhibition how he could toggle between representation and abstraction in paintings that shared a basic iconography of forms.
Cowley Abbott is open all weekend, both Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, so please feel welcome to drop by for a visit to view the fantastic collection of artworks included in the Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art.
Lydia Abbott, Vice President, Owner & Partner can be reached at [email protected]
I am drawn in by Riopelle’s thick paint application that creates a tactile surface, tempting the viewer (me) to touch it!
The palette knife strokes are a mix of order and spontaneity. “Polyvalencia” dates to a key period in the artist’s life – just as he was moving away from his structured “mosaic” compositions to more linear ones; this transition is apparent in the expressive painting.
I also find it noteworthy that during the time Riopelle completed “Polyvalencia” in 1961, he had recently started his romantic relationship with Joan Mitchell – the two shared an apartment in Paris, travelled throughout Europe, and influenced each other’s rapidly evolving work.
Katherine Meredith, Montreal Representative & Art Specialist. Contact Katherine at [email protected]
Working with both Canadian and International Art I’m always intrigued by the unspoken dialogue that can occur in work by artists of different nationalities who unlikely had any contact.
I was instantly drawn to the dynamic work by Jack Bush, Angry Man and saw the many similarities it has with Edouardo Kingman’s painting Figura, which will be offered in our June International Art auction. Both artists have a very modernist approach to their subjects: the compact focus on single figures, the expressive lines and selective colour choices all come together to convey intense human emotions.
Perry Tung, Senior Canadian & International Art Specialist. Contact Perry at [email protected]
Cowley Abbott’s Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art presents an impressive selection of historical, post-war and contemporary works by renowned Canadian artists. The catalogue offers a variety of landscapes depicting the range of Canadian terrain across the nation, from the Pacific to Atlantic and Arctic Coasts. Many of Canada’s most iconic landmarks and destinations are represented in works in the upcoming live sale.
Arthur Lismer and Gordon Appelbe Smith represent similar subjects of Western Canada through different stylistic approaches. Lismer’s more traditional oil The Pacific (lot 40) uses thick, choppy brushstrokes to capture an ominous mood before the impending storm.
By contrast, M.G.T. #4 (lot 25) by Smith presents a reductive and semi-abstract interpretation of the British Columbian coast. His subdued palette captures the subtleties of light and gentle movement playing on the water’s surface.
Moving north to Canada’s territories, we find Ted Harrison’s vibrant painting Discovery Day, Dawson City (lot 34), where Harrison depicts a weekend-long festival that occurs annually in Dawson City in early August.
Dorothy McCarthy’s sublime Arctic landscapes, such as lot 42, Along the Inland Passage, are considered the artist’s most desirable pictures. The large oil painting depicts part of a 1,500km long stretch of protected coastline that runs from Skagway, Alaska to the north, through British Columbia and ends in the south in Puget Sound, Washington.
The wide vistas of the Prairies are beautifully illustrated in Dorothy Knowles’ Wheat Fields (lot 88), which captures the fresh air and grand landscape of her home province of Saskatchewan. Also depicting the Prairies is lot 49, West Yellow Rough by renowned contemporary artist Ivan Kenneth Eyre. He is known for creating scenes from his imagination that are inspired by his surroundings in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Many excellent examples of the rural landscape and wilderness of Ontario are included in the Spring Live Auction. The iconic Niagara Falls are delicately painted in watercolours by Charles Jones Way in lot 58. The artist exemplified the trend towards naturalism during the 1860s and 1870s; Niagara Falls was also a popular subject by many Canadian and American painters of this period, as it epitomizes man’s encounter with the sublime.
Lot 32, Mill Lake, Parry Sound, executed by A.J. Casson in 1934, was painted during an important period for the artist, soon after the end of his association with the Group of Seven. This sweeping vista filled with rich colour, lush foliage and shimmering light showcases the picturesque land of Ontario cottage country.
A more urban scene of Quebec is John Little’s Night, De La Roche Street, Montreal (lot 14). Little depicts the exterior spiral staircases that are quintessential to the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood. The painting presents a charming and inviting scene of daily life in Montreal on a summer evening.
Venturing further up the St. Lawrence River, the picturesque hills of the Charlevoix region can be seen in lot 87 Crépuscule, Charlevoix by Clarence Gagnon, dating to 1923 while the painter was living in Baie-Saint-Paul.
And finally, representing the Maritimes in the Spring Live Auction are three charming works by Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis. Lot 85, Car Ride Through Town is likely based on memories from her first year of marriage. When Maud met Everett Lewis in 1938, the couple would venture out in his Ford Model T to sell fish around Digby County.
We invite you to view the full catalogue listing or set a preview appointment for Cowley Abbott’s Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art, for more landscapes as well as many other important artworks of different subjects. For questions or further information about the sale, do not hesitate to contact us at 1-866-931-8415 or [email protected].
This is one of the works in our Spring Live Auction that just keeps drawing my attention back in for another close look. Carmichael’s mastery of the medium is on full display here. The surface buzzes with autumn colours and the paint handling is both sensitive and confident. The best of the Group sketches have an incredible immediacy to them, a quality this work has in spades.
Learn more about this Franklin Carmichael oil painting at https://cowleyabbott.ca/artwork/AW40521. Included in our Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art on June 15th at Toronto’s Globe & Mail Centre!
Patrick Staheli, Art Specialist & Manager – Online Auctions. Contact Patrick at [email protected]
This won’t come as a surprise to you, but I see a lot of art. The special works I experience stay with me and the very special works are revisited in my memory time and time again.
Pegi Nicol MacLeod’s A Descent of Lilies in the National Gallery of Canada collection is one of those unforgettable pieces. I saw it at the McMichael’s exhibition of Uninvited: Canadian Women Artist in the Modern Moment. To me, this masterpiece, was such a powerfully creative and beautiful work it outshone all the other paintings in the exhibition. I was reminded of the experience recently when I saw another MacLeod painting which is included in our Live Auction of Important Canadian Art, June 15.
Jump Rope (lot 33), is a painting we sold to a collector during my time at Masters Gallery in Calgary. After enjoying this great work for many years, the B.C owner has decided to sell. During my time at the gallery in Calgary we sold several terrific MacLeod paintings that came to us out of the artist’s estate. Jump Rope was one of them. Not only is it one of the largest New York canvases I’ve seen, it also is one of the best examples from this period. The painting’s visual impact, composition and condition are extraordinary, and it is a treat to see it again. Jump Rope is one of my favourite paintings in the auction. Check it out online at https://cowleyabbott.ca/artwork/AW40773
Peter Ohler, Private Sales & Western Canada Representative / Senior Canadian Art Specialist. Contact Peter at [email protected]
The auction market is certainly alive and well and Cowley Abbott is delighted to be entrusted with exceptional Historical, Post-War, and Contemporary artworks included in our current dedicated May online auctions. The auctions complement our Live Auction of Important Canadian Art and offer collectors the opportunity to build their collections with rare gems of important artworks. This week we are rounding up a sampling of many of the highlights in the auctions.
Historical Canadian Art
On the heels of the widely successful “Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment” exhibition curated by Sarah Milroy and hosted by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection before travelling to the Glenbow in Calgary and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, women artists have been going through a renaissance on the market. With important works and texts uncovering some of the lesser-known areas of Canadian Art, the market has been enriched with a deeper understanding of these integral women and their contributions to the canon of Canadian art history.
Anne Savage “House in the Hills / Hills & Trees”
Anne Savage “Lower St. Lawrence, Métis”
Anne Savage often depicted rural Quebec landscapes, favouring farm scenes and forest landscapes. Similar to her fellow Beaver Hall members, Savage maintained a high level of rhythm of line and form within her artworks. The artworks in our May Online Auction of Historical Canadian Art have been executed with a keen sense of form, compositional balance, and a nod to abstraction with the simply rendered buildings. On the artist’s work, art critic Richard H. Haviland explains: “She is completely the landscape artist. A modernist, she is an able interpreter of the Canadian scene, and seeks to bring out the main characteristics of her subject with a bold summarization of forms. Her work is strongly coloured and shows a fine sense of design.” The keen use of vibrant greens and teal juxtaposing with soft pastels are a hallmark of the artist’s work and imbue a unique energy and palette differing from the Group of Seven and many of her male counter parts.
Bertram Brooker “Oaks on Assiniboine”
Upon visiting Winnipeg in the summer of 1929 and meeting with Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald, Bertram Brooker abandoned pure abstraction for the exploration of abstraction in figural and natural forms within the landscape. Rather than progress to abstraction as many of his peers had, Brooker instead utilised this bold initial experimentation with abstraction to incorporate into this later body of work. Heavily influenced by FitzGerald, Brooker adopted a refined and simplified stylistic handling of form, not dissimilar to the graphic arts of his early professional experience as a graphic artist. Rather than embrace the wild and ragged handling of paint to express the rugged terrain of the Canadian landscape, Brooker instead saw how the landscape could be abstracted and flattened while maintaining a refined dynamism. Utilizing compositional balance, “Oaks on Assiniboine” explores the modern handling of the landscape in the thirties, with a harnessing of simplified formalism, energetic movement with the diagonal lines within the natural forms, rendered in graphic black ink. Especially for emerging collectors, this work on paper is an excellent example of the artist’s history as a graphic designer and his exploration of modernism in landscape art.
Frederic Bell-Smith “Westminster Bridge, London”
Born in London, England, his father, John Bell-Smith, was a portrait and miniature painter. He studied in London at the South Kensington Art Schools, and in Paris under Courtois, Dupain, and T.A. Harrison. F.M. Bell-Smith has captured this iconic London landmark with vigour, depicting London as a sea of colour and a hive of activity. The acute detail in this work is testament to the artist’s keen talent of controlling the watercolour medium. The work captures the misty grey atmosphere of the city while the figures go about their day selling flowers, carting grain, commuting on London’s famous double-decker buses, and strolling along the bridge protected by black umbrellas. Bell-Smith mastered the difficult task of conveying the wet conditions with reflective puddles and a hazed background barely visible through the thick fog. Of particular note is the bright pops of colour in the work set against the otherwise blue-grey tonal scene; the red cap of the small girl walking with her sister, a bright green advertisement cladding the red bus, and the yellow blooms laying on the flower seller’s tray. The work is an exceptional example of the artist’s skill as a watercolourist and gives a charming snapshot into the artist’s life in London documenting his surroundings.
Post-War and Contemporary Art
William Hodd McElcheran “A Man & Muse”
A young artist trained in painting, McElcheran only dabbled in sculpture before committing to the medium. Inspired by European masters such as Giacomo Manzù, Alberto Giacometti, Donatello, and Michelangelo, McElcheran was interested in the heroic larger than life presence of figurative works. First working as a designer and producing religious figures, McElcheran began to develop the ‘Everyman’ form which became the forerunner to his iconic ‘Businessman’ image. This work incorporates the ‘Everyman’ while still referencing the artist’s religious motifs with an ethereal angel-like muse gracefully looking down on the man. There is a rhythmic quality to the sculpture with the gentle curve of the forms in harmony with each other. It is as though the muse is in a position of ‘saviour’ for the man who reaches up from his toes, with a longing gaze requesting to be taken away. From a taped interview with Dorothy Cameron for the Toronto City Hall exhibition catalogue, McElcheran explained, “For thousands of years artists have painted, modelled and carved the human form. I am thankful for this spadework, but I am not going to stop now and say that nothing more can be down with this infinite theme. The Greeks lived before Freud; the Renaissance came before Darwin. Today we have something else to say about man! The artist is one of the few people who still have the freedom to choose. In the face of fifteen thousand years of human thought, out of the confrontation of this vast environment of human creativity, he has the power to choose what he loves and infuse it with his own spirit.”
Mary Pratt “Grapes in a Colander”
A mature work by the artist, this mixed media piece exemplifies the artist’s strength in finding beauty in the everyday. While her husband Christopher Pratt, painted full-time, Mary Pratt did so only when she had a spare moment in her homemaking duties. She found her subjects in her daily routine, with a focus on food – jars of jelly, bowls of fruit, raw meat and fish. Pratt elevated these images of everyday household objects from the banal to something beautiful and significant. With regards to her choice of subject matter, the artist declared: “My strength has always been to find something where others found nothing. There’s a depth to everything, and everything is worth looking at, like those roses that are now past their prime. Everything is worth consideration. I really believe that.”. The luminous yellow of the grapes acts as a beacon of light emanating from the work and is complemented by the bright warm red of the colander reflected in the surface below. The work stands as a delightful representation of Pratt’s interest in capturing the effects of light to add a dramatic or theatrical aspect to her artwork.
Jean-Philippe Dallaire “Le chute d’Icare”
The artist lived in Paris throughout different periods of his life, exposed to the works of Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Salvador Dali. The reduction of form, simplification of line, and oblong shapes of colour within the composition are indicative of the artist’s practice of incorporating multiple tokens of abstract techniques into his works. Jean-Philippe Dallaire is best known for his imaginative and animated paintings composed of unconventional and macabre figures. He was inspired by Italian theatre, mythological figures, surrealism, synthetic cubism, and art brut. In his original and bold artwork, such as “Le chute d’Icare”, the real and the imaginary are intertwined in a world of form and colour. Here, the artist represents the Greek story of the Fall of Icarus, the cautionary tale advising that youthful carelessness will lead to one’s downfall. Dallaire always remained a representational painter, despite a continued interest in abstraction. The artist played a role as a precursor in the return to figure painting in Canada during the late 1960s.
Many more fantastic works pepper our May online auctions with full artwork details included in our online catalogue listing. Contact our specialists for more information and we would be delighted to assist!
A warm welcome to Eryn Brobyn as she joins the Cowley Abbott team!
Eryn holds a Masters degree in Art Gallery and Museum studies from the University of Leeds and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from the University of Guelph. Upon graduating from the University of Guelph she was the recipient of the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation Printmaking Award. While completing her Masters degree she worked at Harewood House in Yorkshire where she utilized her art historical knowledge and gained experience of museum procedures, public relations and client service and art handling skills in her role as Senior House Guide.
Eryn joins Cowley Abbott with eight years of commercial art world experience having spent the majority of her career working for a global auction house in London, UK. She has a comprehensive knowledge of the auction world having advanced through a number of roles to her current position as an Art Specialist. Initially specializing in prints and topographical pictures, these days she considers herself a generalist with specialist knowledge ranging from historical and contemporary Canadian to international works.
Eryn can be contacted directly by email at [email protected]
We are pleased to welcome Catherine Lacroix to the Cowley Abbott team!
After completing her undergraduate studies at Concordia University, Catherine received her Master’s in Art History from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where she specialized in Renaissance art. She then interned at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, researching European works within the permanent collection while providing administrative assistance.
Eager to further explore the commercial art world, Catherine undertook a short course at Christie’s in New York before moving to Vancouver to work at YKLM Auctions as part of the Canadian contemporary and Asian art departments. She contributed to establishing the reputation and increasing the visibility of this new auction house among local collectors and artists.
Catherine Lacroix can be reached directly by e-mail at [email protected].