Join Rob Cowley as he discusses “Thunderstorm”, a significant oil painting from early in the long artistic career of A.J. Casson, youngest member of the Group of Seven. The painting is featured in the Cowley Abbott Auction of Artwork from an Important Private Collection on December 1st, 2022. Further details related to the artwork can be found here: https://cowleyabbott.ca/artwork/AW41526
Lydia Abbott discusses Young Cedars, a captivating 1919 canvas by Canadian master, David Milne. This painting is featured in the Auction of An Important Private Collection of Canadian Art, the second session of the December 1st, 2022 Cowley Abbott Fall Live Auction. Further details related to the artwork can be found here: https://cowleyabbott.ca/artwork/AW41951h
It is our privilege to introduce to the auction market an Important Private Collection of Canadian Art, a selection of rare and remarkable historical artwork, most of which is making its auction debut with Cowley Abbott this fall, part of a two-session live auction event. December will mark the first of three seasons of offerings from this collection.
Accessible Art in August!
The August online auctions are full of great opportunities for the emerging art collector. Historical and contemporary paintings, photographs, drawings, sculptures and a variety of prints are divided among four sessions.
The first session, Canadians at Home & Abroad includes the work of the Canadian artist couple Frank and Caroline Armington. The couple met in Ontario but spent over thirty years living together in Paris and travelling throughout Europe. A number of pieces documenting their life abroad are featured in the auction, such as Frank Armington’s The Old Quarter in Stockholm (lot 17) and Halte Hanser an der Pegnitz, Nuremberg (lot 18), and Caroline Armington’s two depictions of Parisian Bridges: Le Pont Saint-Michel à Paris (lot 19) and Le Pont Neuf, Paris (lot 20).
In the Prints & Works on Paper session, lot 104 is a timeless tranquil interior scene by Jack Chambers, executed in a photo-realist lithograph print. A large and nicely framed image entitled Guards, by contemporary photographer Laurent Guérin is a great find for a modern space, and appeals especially to dog-loving art collectors.
Two delicate pencil drawings by Richard Robertson, lots 122 and 123, are a calming duo to hang up in a home. Lot 129 is one of L.L. Fitzgerald’s famous negative image architectural linocuts, which dates to 1938 but has a timeless feel. For a bold abstract option, Rita Letendre’s Silent Echo II has a strong energy and cool retro colour palette of brown and black.
In the Still Life and Figural Work session, lot 193, Seated Nude by Hugh Mackenzie, is a fine ink drawing with an eye-catching circular format. It is another example of a timeless image, despite it being dated 1968 by the artist. The renowned and talented Molly Lamb Bobak, who is known for her floral watercolour paintings, depicts cosmos so delicately that they appear to be floating (lot 203, Cosmos).
French impressionist and protegé of Edgar Degas, painter Jean-Louis Forain’s Dancer in soft pastels is a lovely work and great opportunity, estimated at $600-800.
The final session, The Estate of Barbara Mercer, offers some colourful and whimsical works such as lot 263 Birthday Love Songs and lot 268 Cat. There is truly something for everyone in this month’s auction, and at very accessible price points. We invite you to browse through the full catalogue of 276 works and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, at [email protected]. The auctions close on August 23.
Perry, our International Art specialist, highlights a selection of outstanding artworks included in the current Spring Auction of International Art. Take a moment to learn about these fantastic artworks. Bidding closes on June 28th!
Painted the year the artist died, “The Young Craftsmen” echoes one of Rosenthal’s best known paintings, “His Madonna”, which was painted the previous year. The similarities seem endless from the likeness of the young boy working in his white shirt with a red handkerchief stuffed into his blue apron to his wooden workbench with his carving tools splayed in front of him and wood shavings littering the floor. However, where “His Madonna” positions the viewer at a more distanced vantage point, “The Young Craftsmen” creates a more intimate portrait of the young subject by bringing the viewer in closer to the scene. The boy’s face is turned slightly toward the viewer which invites us into a more personal connection to the sitter.
“The spectacle of the sky overwhelms me. I’m overwhelmed when I see, in an immense sky, the crescent of the moon, or the sun. There, in my pictures, tiny forms in huge empty spaces. Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains – everything which is bare has always greatly impressed me.” -Joan Miró
Vincenzo Amato was born in Palermo, Italy in 1966; he is primarily known as an actor appearing in numerous films and tv shows. Early in his artistic career he had a couple of exhibitions at gallery Il Gabbiano in Rome. In the early 1990s he arrived in New York for a wedding and never left, continuing to pursue a career as an actor and sculptor, exhibiting his work at the Earl MacGrath Gallery.
In 1935 Kingman submitted a controversial work to Ecuador’s esteemed Mariano Aguilera Prize. It caused outcry among the conservative jury and was rejected from the competition. However, the following year Kingman’s peers championed him and the same work won first prize in the same competition. The moment lead to Indigenism being adopted as the dominant artistic style in Ecuador. In the 1930s Kingman painted indigenous workers in a monumental style that emphasized their human suffering. After World War II, he expanded his themes to include all human deprivation to capture the universal humanity of his subjects.“Figura” depicts a lone woman, with her head resting in her hands. The artist forms a triangular composition that leads the eye upwards towards the subject’s half obscured face. The oversized cupped hands magnify her despair with every etched line. The worn, crimson knuckles emphasize her suffering. Kingman was known for his exaggerated, expressive style, which we see here in this lovely example of his work.
A wonderful bench by John Risley, an American designer and craftsman. Risley studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Cranbook Academy of Art in Michigan, before moving to the Philippines and later to Taiwan to work for the state department, absorbing influences from those cultures in his work. Risley produced these benches as a series, some executed in red and some in black. The idea was to make these art objects both functional and decorative.
A member of the ancient house of Troubetzkoy by birth, Prince Paolo (Paul) Troubetzky was the son of a Russian diplomat and American singer Ada Winans. Largely self-taught he did come under the influence of Guiseppe Grandi, an avant-garde sculptor who was associated with the Scapigliatura movement. Troubetzkoy was a passionate animal activist and vegetarian, keeping a menagerie of animals in his studio, which became the subjects of some of his sculptures. He moved in the gilded age circles of the day, sculpting portraits of the rich and famous. In “Maternal Embrace”, the subtle play of light across the deep modeling of the figures as they emerge from the folds of the dress, captures a tender moment between a mother and her child. The plaster for this work dates from 1898 and is housed in the collection of the Museo Del Paesaggio, Verbania.
The Spring Auction of International Art closes for bidding on Tuesday, June 28th. Find more information about the artworks included in the auction here: https://cowleyabbott.ca/items/1178 and contact our Perry for more information at [email protected].
From The Estate of Robert Markle Online Auction – June 14th to 28th
In conjunction with our current dedicated auction of works from the Estate of Robert Markle, this week’s blog entry is dedicated to the life and work of artist, Robert Markle. Contemporaries with Graham Coughtry, Gordon Rayner, Dennis Burton, and Harold Klunder, Markle broke boundaries in contemporary art practices and questioned the definitions of high and low art subject matter when it came to the body and sexuality within his practice. He was a multi-disciplinary artist, practicing in painting, printmaking, writing, music and collaborated with his peers regularly. In addition, he also held teaching positions at The New School of Art, Art’s Sake Inc. and the University of Guelph.
Born in 1936 in Hamilton, Ontario, Markle is of Mohawk ancestry, but struggled with his identity while growing up. He states that “people should be aware [that] you can be a Native Canadian and still understand [that] Christopher Wren is wonderful and Rembrandt is wonderful and Western art is wonderful.” Some of the artist’s later works incorporate cultural themes and symbols in his work.
Robert began studying at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto in 1954 but was later expelled before graduating for throwing a bottle of acid against a wall. Before leaving, however, Robert met Marlene Shuster, a fellow student, and the pair later married in 1958. Marlene was not only Robert’s steadfast life partner, but was also his primary model and muse with her likeness captured in many of the artist’s figural works. In addition to Marlene, Robert frequented burlesque clubs to source inspiration of the form.
Robert Markle’s first one-man exhibition was held in 1963 at the Isaacs Gallery in Toronto, where Marlene had also worked. Markle was eventually associated with the so-called “Isaacs Group” of artists, who were known for both their avant-garde artwork and their drinking. Some of these artists, including Markle, were part of the Artists Jazz Band, which was formed around 1962. His exploration in music greatly influenced his work with both smooth lyrical and abrupt staccato movements present in his works. Long fluid single strokes of pigment can define the body while aggressive short strokes and spontaneous drips of paint punctuate the picture plane and create a complex visual statement in the artist’s works.
Many of Markle’s figural works often lack clear identifiable faces to focus on the form of the figure. In many of the works, not only is abstraction integrated into his practice, but also the landscape. Horizontal works of reclining and outstretched figures recall layered landscapes as the eye travels across the curves and angles of the body. He has been quoted as stating: “Every artist needs a central issue. My nudes are like Tom Thomson’s jack pine.”
During his career, Markle primarily produced tempera and acrylic paintings as well as ink drawings, although he did also explore other mediums including printmaking under the guidance of close friend and master printmaker, Otis Tamasauskas. Markle also collected folk art which helped inspire his later kinetic ‘whirligig’ artworks which incorporated his signature nude motifs and technicolour colour palettes.
Infamously, Markle’s participation in a group show called “Eros ’65” at the Dorothy Cameron Gallery in Toronto has been rife with controversy. A police raid led to an obscenity trial that Robert Fulford called “a comedy of mutual incomprehension.” Cameron was charged with exposing “obscene pictures to public view” and the gallery closed shortly thereafter which helped make Markle famous for his provocative works. The controversy sparked a national debate about censorship and the distinction between erotic art and pornography and placed Markle’s work at the centre of the conversation.
Over a decade after Markle’s untimely death in 1990, Tony Massett organized a retrospective at the Durham Art Gallery (December 2002 to January 2003), and one year later, curator and art historian Anna Hudson organized an exhibition entitled “Woman as Goddess: Liberated Nudes by Robert Markle and Joyce Wieland” displayed at the Art Gallery of Ontario (November 2003 until February 2004). In August 2011, “Blazing Figures: A Retrospective of Robert Markle” opened at the Gallery de Boer in Owen Sound. A pivotal work by the artist, entitled “Mohawk: Meeting”, a neon, stainless steel and acrylic painting measuring 15’ x 160’ is installed in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
The collection of works direct from the estate of the artist help paint a picture of Markle as an artist, friend, partner and collector. Many works from his peers had been gifted, traded and collaborated on and are testament to his larger than life personality. Important works by Willem de Kooning, Gordon Rayner, and Graham Coughtry pepper the auction and create a harmonious dialogue with Markle’s own work. The collection of works highlight the significance of his career (1960s–1990) in Canadian art, as well as that of the Isaacs group and the Toronto art scene.
Cowley Abbott’s Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art on June 15th presented a catalogue of important and rare artworks by some of Canada’s most celebrated artists. Hosted at a new venue, the Globe & Mail Centre, which boasts a terrific view of Toronto’s waterfront, clients enjoyed a chance to reunite in-person while enjoying a fast-paced auction with our experienced auctioneer, Rob Cowley, at the helm.
The evening auction drew collectors from across the globe to the hybrid model live auction, which took place simultaneously in-person in Toronto and online at CowleyAbbott.ca. With a room full of collectors and art lovers, Cowley Abbott experienced another season of exceptionally strong results.
An important painting by Tom Thomson exceeded expectations at Cowley Abbott’s Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art on June 15, 2022, selling for $1.5 million. Tom Thomson is one of Canada’s most recognized artists, not only for his enduring legacy as a lover of the Canadian north, but for the tragedy of a talented life cut short. Nocturne, an evocative sketch, dates from Thomson’s golden painting year of 1916. This work has a long and distinguished pedigree. Initially purchased by W.J. Alexander, the first professor of English at the University of Toronto, and later owned by Keith MacIver, a former prospector, who – after Thomson died – lived in Thomson’s “Shack” situated next to the Studio Building in Toronto. Private collections have kept this work well-hidden from public view since 2000, until offered by Cowley Abbott. Appearing for the first time at auction, Nocturne drew heated bidding from enthusiastic collectors attending in-person, online and by phone, well surpassing the auction estimate of $900,000 – $1.2 million.
A monumental canvas by Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau sets a new artist record selling for $312,000, quadrupling the previous record. Animal Unity smashed the current artist record at auction soaring to $312,000, more than four times the low end pre-sale estimate and over four times the previous record of $71,500, set over a decade ago. Morrisseau is considered to be the grandfather of contemporary Indigenous art in Canada. His work is instantly recognizable and Animal Unity, with heavy black and red outlines and colourful composition, reflects the artist’s early figurative imagery, depicting the interdependence of all creatures on land, in the sky and from the sea.
Série noir/blanc, a museum quality canvas and an unparalleled Stripe painting by revered Quebec artist, Guido Molinari, raced to $264,000 on the phone. This painting was presented on the back cover of the auction catalogue and is a “stop-you-in-your-tracks” stunner of a work that thrilled every visitor to the Cowley Abbott gallery during the six weeks of previewing ahead of the auction.
Fierce bidding took place on the phones, online and in the room for three works by the beloved east coast painter Maud Lewis: Three Black Cats fetched $84,000, Winter Sleighride sold for $52,800 and Car Ride Through Town, a favourite during previews, reached $90,000.
Backyards, a work by celebrated Canadian female painter Isabel McLaughlin, attracted ample pre-sale interest and sold for $40,800, doubling the estimate. McLaughlin herself knew the value of this painting as the opening salvo of her contribution to Canadian art. As one of her most important paintings, she presented it in every exhibition she could.
The Group of Seven showed continued market strength: paintings by A.J. Casson sold for $120,000 and $144,000, a mid-century A.Y. Jackson canvas depicting Quebec fetched $96,000 and a fresh to market work by Franklin Carmichael, Study of Trees, Autumn, found a new home at $60,000.
A rare genre scene by the 19th century Canadian artist, Cornelius Krieghoff, French Canadian Habitants Playing at Cards, saw fierce bidding, selling for $144,000. Recognized as a treasure within the artist’s oeuvre, the rarity of a canvas with such an abundance of figures, exquisitely rendered detail and narrative strength is a prize for any astute collector of historical Canadian art.
Historical Canadian art showed continued strength with a fantastic record setting result for Charles Jones Way. Niagara Falls, the artist’s monumental depiction of the natural wonder soared to $24,000 in the evening auction. Another auction record set was for Arthur Heming’s dramatic canvas, Nearing a Fur Post, which sold for $48,000.
A prominent member of the Automatistes and a signatory of the Refus Global, Jean Paul Riopelle was a lifelong avant-garde and experimental artist. Riopelle’s works are both expressive and formal. Polyvalencia of 1961, signifying a new direction for the artist, also dates from an important period in Riopelle’s personal life, when he had begun a romantic relationship with American abstract painter Joan Mitchell. This dynamic oil fetched $120,000.
A forerunner of abstract art in Canada, the self-trained Bertram Brooker was a skilled draftsman, talented advertising artist and businessman. Still Life (Variation No. 3) 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. This important work by Brooker sold for $24,000.
As Canadian art increases in importance nationally, becomes more well-known internationally and the trends of art collecting expand, specific Canadian artists continue to be celebrated and sought after by new and seasoned collectors alike. It is proven that with high-quality online presentation and confidence in auction house specialists, collectors are eager to buy remotely and to find artworks of rarity and quality.
Cowley Abbott is grateful to all of the clients, bidders and art collectors who participated this auction season. We look forward to connecting further and sharing exciting upcoming projects with the Canadian art community. Stayed tuned for our upcoming themed online auctions and the next Live Auction of Important Canadian Art taking place in the fall.
“Nocturne”, an evocative sketch, dates from Tom Thomson’s golden painting year of 1916. Estimated at $900,000-1,200,000, this work has a long and distinguished pedigree. Private collections have kept this work well-hidden from public view since 2000, until today.
It has been a pleasure for Cowley Abbott to handle this painting and we look forward to offering this Tom Thomson tomorrow evening in our live auction.
Rob and Peter both discuss the importance of this 1916 painting by Thomson in our new video, highlighting that the work was executed in the same year as Thomson’s “The West Wind” in the collection of the AGO.
View further images and information about this important painting here: https://cowleyabbott.ca/artwork/AW40914.
I have always been captivated by the work of William Kurelek. His representations are often entertaining, sometimes personal and always engaging. A great deal of what I know about William Kurelek as a person has come to me through those who met and knew the artist and Brian Dedora has been generous of his time and recollections with me for almost twenty years. Brian patiently answers my very particular questions about the artist, his life, his practice and his personality, his personal stories providing a perspective that colours the corners of Kurelek’s life that are often not discussed academically.
Brian and William Kurelek were more than co-worked at Isaac’s Gallery, they were friends and brothers. When Brian speaks of the artist, he always smiles and/or laughs, sharing the warmth from their close relationship. Brian Dedora in Isaacs Gallery Old Workshop was a gift from William Kurelek to Brian Dedora, the artist refocusing his earlier composition of the shop to have Brian play the central role. Every inch of the drawing provides personal details which Brian and William shared and the drawing not only displays a living memory for Brian, but it also leaves William Kurelek’s vision of his friend from their period together at a historic time and place.
I invite you to read the interview with Brian Dedora which Andrew Kear conducted to accompany the cataloguing for this artwork. The conversation brings to even further life this fantastic and personal work of art.
Maud Lewis has captured the hearts of collectors, charmed by her humble upbringing, humour, whimsy, and the sheer joy radiating from her paintings of everyday Maritime life.
Painting serial images, the inconsistencies of Maud Lewis’ work were undoubtedly intentional. She painted winter scenes with off-season foliage and colours because it pleased her. She repeated her subjects and scenes from memory, and cats and flowers ranked among the artist’s favourite subjects.
Watch the video below to learn more about Maud Lewis!
It is a delight to handle works by Maud Lewis and we look forward to offering these pieces in our upcoming Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art. Learn more about the beloved female artist and the artworks in our major spring auction in the new Cowley Abbott video!