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.
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.
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.
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 paintingsdepicting 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.
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.
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].
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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, 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 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.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Local collector interest / exhibiting with smaller or younger galleries
Art Fair showing
International interest (though less so with Canadian art given the regional market)
Reputable Artist Prizes
Move to representation with established gallery / solo exhibition
Acquisitions by major collectors
International solo exhibition
AUCTION DEBUT—works selling above expectation
Strong and Consistent auction market activity
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).
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!
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
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.
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
Stallalmost 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.
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’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
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.
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’sBasse 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
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’sHighland Games, Frederictonis 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.
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].
September 3rd, 2019 (Toronto) – Effective today, Consignor Canadian Fine Art has rebranded to become Cowley Abbott.
The change provides a more “human” face to the firm, with a focus upon the managing owners & partners, Rob Cowley and Lydia Abbott.
The management structure and services of the company remain unchanged and past Consignor domains and addresses will remain active, ensuring a smooth transition for clients. Cowley Abbott will continue to operate in the same gallery, located at 326 Dundas Street West, Toronto (across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario).
Cowley Abbott’s fall auction season begins with the September Online Auction of Canadian & International Artwork (bidding open September 10th-17th) and culminates with the Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art on Tuesday, November 19th (consignment deadline of September 25th).
Cowley Abbott is currently collecting consignments for the upcoming live and online auctions. The firm offers standard all-inclusive selling commissions and the industry’s lowest buyer’s premium. Contact Cowley Abbott to arrange a complimentary, confidential consultation at [email protected]
May 28, 2019 (Toronto, ON) – An energetic and hypnotizing canvas by Claude Tousignant had bidders spellbound during the Tuesday evening Consignor Canadian Fine Art Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art, when it fetched $188,800 (all prices include the 18% Buyer’s Premium), more than tripling the opening bid. Absurdo (1964) drew feverish bidding attention from participants in the room and on the telephone before being hammered down well beyond expectation.
David Milne’s Soft Hills (Misty Hills) (Boston Corners, N.Y.), a masterful 1917 watercolour also attracted strong attention in the packed auction gallery at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum, finally selling for $112,100, more than doubling the painting’s pre-sale estimate of $40,000-60,000. The stunning watercolour appeared for its first time at auction with Consignor and the rarity drew praise and attention from collectors across Canada.
Algoma Sketch XCII (Algoma Autumn), a 1920 oil sketch portraying the region where the Group of Seven embarked on their earliest sketching trips as an official association sold for $125,000 during the week, while a small graphite sketch by the artist (Algoma) fetched $25,960, exceeding its pre-sale auction estimate.
A close friend of Harris and Group of Seven, Tom Thomson’s Road Near Leith (1908) sold for $100,300, the early canvas, depicting the region where the painter was born and his family lived, exceeding the high-end of expectation.
Prairie-born Colour-Field painter William Perehduoff also turned heads during the May auction with AC-69-29 (1969) commanding strong competition in the auction gallery before finally selling for $51,920, more than doubling the opening bid volleyed by the auctioneer.
Other notable results during Consignor’s spring auction include:
Bill Reid,Bear Cub Pendant (1990), the 22k gold jewellery work by the internationally renowned Haida artist, fetched $47,200 (exceeding the high-end of pre-auction expectation).
Jack Bush, Ochre Blue Square, the small canvas by the celebrated post-war painter selling for $30,680, while an earlier, 1951 work by the artist, Lovers, sold for $28,320 (within expectation).
William Kurelek, Tale of a Dog, a gift from the painter to the consignor, a fellow framer and friend, achieved $10,620 (exceeding the high-end of pre-auction expectation).
Frederick Varley, Spring Meadow, Don Valley, a vivid canvas painted during the period in which the Group of Seven were associated, sold for $28,320 (within expectation).
The season continues with a second online session of Canadian artwork on offer until June 5th and a further session of Canadian and International artwork included in the Consignor June Online Auction between June 9th and 16th.
Related work to Harris’ Record-Breaking Algoma sketch hits the Block with Masterworks by David Milne & Claude Tousignant debuting at Consignor Canadian Fine Art’s Spring Live Auction on May 28
May 1, 2019 (Toronto, ON) – Lawren Harris rarely repeated subject matter, but the familiar depiction of Algoma, an island of tall trees, was a pivotal scene for the renowned Canadian artist, serving as the focus of several large-scale canvases. In 2016, Consignor Canadian Fine Art’s inaugural live auction event set the record for the highest-selling sketch of the Algoma region by Lawren Harris, fetching $977,500, tripling the previous auction record. Now, two new Harris sketches of the area will go on the auction block at Consignor’s Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art, taking place May 28 (7pm) at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum.
Algoma Sketch XCII (Algoma Autumn), painted in 1920, marks an important place in Canadian art history, portraying the region where the Group of Seven embarked on their first sketching trips as an official association. The colourful oil sketch depicting a densely populated forest scene is being offered with an auction estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.
Another of Harris’ works, Algoma, is a graphite drawing depicting the familiar island scene and serves as a related work for major canvases by the artist, including paintings at the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The graphite sketch has an estimated value of $15,000 to $20,000 but could exceed expectations based on the strong past performance at Consignor’s auctions of Harris’ graphite studies including the sale of Lake Superior in 2017 for $161,000, a record for a Harris work in this medium.
“Lawren Harris’ work continues to captivate collectors and art enthusiasts across Canada and beyond our borders, and we are already witnessing a great deal of interest and excitement for the two Harris artworks included in our upcoming auction,” said Rob Cowley, President of Consignor Canadian Fine Art. “No matter the medium, Harris’ Algoma compositions are a fascinating display of the region and his development as one of our Canada’s most renowned artists. We are proud to have achieved record-breaking results for Harris’ work in oil and graphite over the past few years and are pleased to offer two works connected to such a pivotal area and period for Harris and the Group.”
David Milne’s Soft Hills (Misty Hills) (Boston Corners, N.Y.), a masterful watercolour painted by the artist in 1917 also appears for the first time at auction at the May 28th evening sale. Composed shortly after Milne and his family moved to the small village of Boston Corners, watercolours from the region are considered to be some of Milne’s most iconic, this stunning work a perfect example, on offer with an auction estimate of $40,000 to 60,000.
notable artworks featured in Consignor’s Spring Live Auction include:
Claude Tousignant,Absurdo (1964), 72” x 72”, a mesmerizing canvas by the celebrated Quebec abstractionist, recently on view at Calgary’s Mount Royal University (auction estimate $60,000 to 80,000)
William Perehudoff, AC-69-29 (1969), 63.5″ x 87.75″, a quintessential Colour-Field canvas, showcasing the unique voice of the Prairies abstract master.
William Kurelek, Tale of a Dog, 13.25” x 1.25”, mixed media on board, was gift from Kurelek to its current owner, a fellow framer and friend, is offered up for sale for the first time (auction estimate $7,000 to $9,000)
Tom Thomson, Road Near Leith, 8.25″ x 13.5″, a rare and early canvas by the famed Canadian landscape painter, depicting the area near his childhood home.
Live previews are currently taking place at the Consignor Canadian Fine Art Gallery located at 326 Dundas Street West and viewable at consignor.ca. Consignor’s Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art will take place on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 7pm at the Gardiner Museum located at 111 Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON. The auction’s second session will be held online, with more than 150 works of art available for bidding between May 22 to June 5, 2019.
William Kurelek, Threshing Outfit Being Brought Lunch (1972)
November Auction of Important Canadian Art Includes Record-Breaking Sales of Work by Bertram Brooker, Ken Lochhead and Robert Gray Murray
Toronto, ON (November 20, 2018) – A never before seen painting by renowned Ukrainian-Canadian artist William Kurelek,Threshing Outfit Being Brought Lunch(1972), sold for $82,600 (including buyer’s premium), tens of thousands of dollars of above its original purchase price of $250. The painting made its auction debut this evening at Consignor Canadian Fine Art’s live auction event at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, ON.
The painting was purchased directly from the artist in 1972, and remained within the owner’s family until its offering on Tuesday evening. Kurelek met the original owner, a Ukrainian-Canadian student who had just moved to Toronto, at an exhibition of his work at Isaacs Gallery. She indicated to the painter that she couldn’t afford to purchase any of the pieces on exhibit, so Kurelek offered to create a painting that she could afford. At her request, Kurelek painted a panoramic farm scene as a reminder of her family’s farm on the prairies; a connection that he shared with the owner, having a similar upbringing in rural Manitoba.
The auction highlights also included record-breaking sales of works by Ken Lochhead, Bertram Richard Brooker and Robert Gray Murray.Lochhead’s Colour Rotation (1964), a rare and monumental canvas by the celebrated modernist painter, sold for $54,280, doubling the previous auction record for the artist. Bertram Brooker’s, Delta Ice House, sold for $82,600, three times above its auction estimate ($25,000 – $35,000) and nearly doubling the artist’s previous auction record. Robert Gray Murray’s Burwash, a striking painted aluminum sculpture, fetched $28,320, more than doubling the previous auction record for the artist’s work.
Solid auction results were also achieved for:
A.Y. Jackson, St. Irenée, Quebec, a classic and compelling Quebec winter village scene by the Group of Seven painter, sold for $94,000, more than double its opening bid
A.J. Casson, Storm in the Cloche Hills, an exemplary 1951 dramatic landscape which was featured on the cover of the fall auction catalogue, sold for $118,000, almost doubling its opening bid
Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Ste. Rose Paysage, the 1939 vivid Quebec landscape selling for $70,800
William Perehudoff, AC-85-81, fetching $33,040, exceeding pre-sale expectation
Jean Paul Riopelle, Sans titre, the 1965 work on paper by the Quebec abstract master fetching $23,600, exceeding the high-end of pre-sale expectation
Maud Lewis, Red Sleigh on a Country Road, the early work by the Nova Scotia folk artist selling for $20,060, exceeding the high-end of expectation (one of three works by Lewis to perform strongly during the evening)
Auction features diverse range of artworks from Canadian artists including Wanda Koop, Hugh Scott Douglas, John Massey and Bruce LaBruce
As one of Canada’s premier auction houses that continues to develop its focus towards all periods, schools, movements and aspects of Canadian art, Consignor Canadian Fine Art is pleased to announce its first auction of Canadian contemporary art. Consignor partnered with renowned Toronto-based artist Jay Isaac to consult and advise on the overall mandate and vision of the sale, to further its commitment to creating a market for contemporary, living artists beyond the gallery realm and presiding institutions.
Consignor’s first-ever Contemporary Canadian Art Auction will be open for bidding from September 19 – 26, online at consignor.ca. Live previews take place beginning September 17 at the Consignor Canadian Fine Art gallery (326 Dundas Street West – across from the Art Gallery of Ontario).
Jay Isaac was pivotal in curating and securing works from private collections for the sale. As someone who has been active in the Canadian art community for over 20 years, his knowledge and involvement in many aspects of the contemporary Canadian art world has allowed him to bring together a concise and deliberate offering of works from some of Canada’s most important and widely collected artists.
“My interest in organizing and participating in alternative systems of dissemination for Canadian contemporary art is based on need,” said Isaac. “The need for the diverse and multi-faceted contemporary art of Canada to be engaged with critically, socially and commercially by wider audiences.”
“Consignor has enjoyed tremendous growth over the past five years with our auctions of Historical and Post-War Canadian Art that have garnered international attention and record-breaking sales,” says Rob Cowley, President of Consignor. “We are pleased to build upon the tradition and diversify our services to feature the important work of contemporary Canadian artists; furthering our desire, as well as the interests of our growing clientele, to provide a comprehensive representation of Canadian art at auction.”
Consignor is happy to debut an annual award as part of the Contemporary Auction schedule. The award recognizes the work of a contemporary Canadian artist whose artwork, career and efforts within the artistic community continue to be viewed as important and consistent by their peers. The award is also intended to acknowledge methods of working that may be outside of current trends but are viewed to be crucial to the development of ideas and potentially influential to other artists.
The award recipient was chosen by a jury of three artists whose work is included in the Contemporary Art Auction – Heather Goodchild, Morley Shayuk and Jennifer Murphy. The jury decided upon a pair of recipients to share the first annual award and we are delighted to congratulate Eli Langer and Lisa DiQuinzio as the co-recipients.
Consignor Canadian Fine Art would like to acknowledge the generous support of Superframe on this project and their contribution to donating framing for several of the works.
Since its inception in 2013, Consignor’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), an undiscovered William Kurelek (Ukrainian Proverb, sold for $41,400), and Jack Bush’s Summer Lake broke online auction records in May 2014 for the most expensive painting by a Canadian artist to be sold at an online auction ($310,500). Consignor’s inaugural live auction event in May 2016 set the record for the highest-selling Algomasketch by Lawren Harris, fetching $977,500, tripling the previous auction record; and most recently, its Spring 2018 live auction featured the sale of William Kurelek’s Hot Day in Kensington Market, the celebrated masterpiece more than doubling pre-sale expectation, fetching a near-record $472,000.
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