1 of 27
"Dog with Bone"
David Alexander Colville, "Dog with Bone," 1961, colour serigraph, 29 1/4" X 21".
2 of 27
Thomas (Tom) John Thomson, "untitled," circa 1915, oil on plywood, 8 1/8" X 10 7/8".
3 of 27
Jean-Paul Lemieux, "L’emigre," oil on canvas, 19" X 25 1/2".
4 of 27
"Dog with Bone"
David Alexander Colville, "Dog with Bone," 1961, colour serigraph, 29 1/4" X 21".
5 of 27
Gregory Richard Curnoe, "Dessin Anime," mixed media on Harumi paper, 77" X 48".
6 of 27
"Early Autumn, Montreal River, Algoma"
James Edward Hervey (J.E.H.) MacDonald, "Early Autumn, Montreal River, Algoma," oil on board, 8 1/2" X 10 3/8".
7 of 27
Christopher Pratt, "Landing," oil on board, 30" X 38".
8 of 27
"La cravate rouge"
Jean-Paul Lemieux, "La cravate rouge," oil on canvas, 1965 12 3/4" x 6 3/4".
9 of 27
"Le mois de juin"
Jean-Paul Lemieux, "Le mois de juin," oil on canvas, 38" x 74", 1964.
10 of 27
"La plage américaine"
Jean-Paul Lemieux, "La plage américaine," oil on canvas, 46 x 69.5, 1973.
11 of 27
William Ronald, "Reggie Jackson," oil painting, 20" x 20".
12 of 27
"Ephraim Kelloway's Red Door"
David Blackwood, "Ephraim Kelloway's Red Door."
13 of 27
"The Tip Of The Icebergs"
Doris McCarthy, "The Tip Of The Icebergs," 1995.
14 of 27
Greg Curnoe, "Mariposa T.T."
15 of 27
William Kurelek, "After Church."
16 of 27
Franklin Carmichael, "Lone Lake."
17 of 27
"Mountain Sketch VII"
Lawren Harris, "Mountain Sketch VII."
18 of 27
Frederick Nicholas Loveroff, "Winter Landscape," 1930.
19 of 27
"Boston Corners Landscape"
David Milne, "Boston Corners Landscape," oil on canvas, 51.8 x 61.6 cm, 1920.
20 of 27
Fritz Brandtner, "Interior."
21 of 27
"Study for Six Squares"
Yves Gaucher, "Study for Six Squares," 1966.
22 of 27
Helen McNicoll, "Easter Lilies," oil on canvas, 21 1/4" x 17 1/8", 1907.
23 of 27
"Young Girl in Landscape"
Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté, "Young Girl in Landscape," oil on canvas, 81 1/2" x 54".
24 of 27
"Head Study (Erica)"
Frederick Varley, "Head Study (Erica)," charcoal, chalk pastel and lipstick on paper, 12" x 9", 1940.
25 of 27
Emily Carr, "Eagle Totem," oil-on-canvas, circa 1930's.
26 of 27
Sorel Etrog, "Metamorphosis," bronze sculpture, 53" x 17 x 6", 1962.
27 of 27
Roy Kiyooka, "Prairie Sky," oil on canvas board, 24" x 20", 1957.
AUCTIONS: Spring 2012 Review
By Douglas MacLean
The weather was good at the Vancouver and Toronto spring auctions, but overall it was an odd season for art, with surprise highs and lows. Much interest was generated by a small Tom Thomson work bought at a Vancouver garage sale and sold for $110,000 at the Maynards sale in Vancouver on May 16. It was an exciting find and wonderful to examine closely. In my opinion, it seemed to be a Thomson. Maynards provided all the documentation it could, and various experts had a good look, but without a detailed provenance it was a risky buy. Maynards also had some excellent contemporary art, bought by a savvy collector with an iPad on his lap. Other astute buyers made good picks, including a great piece by Molly Lamb Bobak.
The catalogue cover at the Heffel auction in Vancouver the following day featured a pretty 1973 painting by Jean Paul Lemieux, La plage americaine. It proved to be the highest sale, at $1.5 million. But the pace didn’t hold for other works by Lemieux. A large early painting, Le mois de juin, struggled to $325,000. Then my top pick, La cravate rouge (1965), a small but excellent image, sold for $45,000. A surprise, as I thought it would fetch $60,000.
The sale had a strong West Coast flavor, with works by B.C. Binning and Jack Shadbolt. Gordon Smith was represented with nine works and E.J. Hughes with seven. Other important offerings included Landing (1973) by Newfoundland’s Christopher Pratt, a great painting that went for $170,000. Sales included an Alex Colville and a rare 1942 Borduas work on paper in excellent condition, which sold for $65,000.
Roy Kiyooka’s Prairie Sky, a quietly elegant 1957 abstract from his Regina days, sold for just $10,000. Two Oscar Cahen drawings failed to meet estimates of $30,000 to $40,000, even though one was particularly excellent. Collectors tend to be cautious with drawings, especially those with high estimates. Sorel Etrog’s wonderful work, Metamorphosis (1962), was a good buy at just under $41,000. Etrog is one of Canada’s great sculptors and has exhibited abroad, but it seems Canadian collectors are unaware of his reputation.
Heffel also featured J.E.H. MacDonald’s Early Autumn, Montreal River, Algoma (1919), which has a clear provenance. A prime period for the Group of Seven, the small and colourful sketch generated strong interest. The hammer came down at $450,000. Still, hesitation was evident in the room. Dealers were quiet and conservative with other bids and collectors saved their interest for certain works. In all, the sale had 22 passes. Yet some prime works drove values up — Emily Carr’s Eagle Totem, circa 1930, fetched $1.4 million, much more than in 2001, when it sold for $390,000 at Heffel.
This year’s auction featured 16 resale lots, some of which did poorly. Works of interest included Frederick Varley’s elegant portrait drawings of Erica (1940) and a wonderful large painting by Marc-Aurele de Foy Suzor-Cote, Young Girl in a Landscape (1913). The latter is a museum-quality work, but did not find a buyer. Works by Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson and Arthur Lismer did well. A prime work by Helen McNicoll, Easter Lilies, circa 1907, sold for $240,000. It’s a great piece by one of Canada’s early Impressionist painters.
In Toronto, the Sotheby’s preview and sale, held at the Royal Ontario Museum, featured work by William Ronald, Harold Town, Jack Bush and Marcelle Ferron. Previews are excellent for examining art and I enjoyed seeing pieces juxtaposed in new ways. There was a good mix with some excellent works. My favourites included Alex Colville’s Dog with Bone (1961), Study for Six Squares (1966) by Yves Gaucher, and William Kurelek’s A Little Lick (1970). They sold well, as they should.
Having more recent Canadian art at auctions is a good development. But quality, condition and estimates must be considered carefully by auction houses and collectors. Sadly, these were factors, as many lots did not sell. Reserve values also seemed an issue, as bidding went up to some estimates, yet works remained unsold. Overall, it was a hesitant night. Still, interest was strong for a Fritz Brandtner piece, Interior. This rare small work was a gem. It sold for $60,000 on the auctioneer’s hammer, well over an estimate of $15,000 to $25,000. And a 1920 painting by David Milne, Boston Corners Landscape, sold at $210,000.
One of my favourite Lemieux works, L’emigre, failed to sell. It struggled to a realistic $150,000, well below the estimate of $180,000 to $220,000. This somber work, with its wonderfully painted background, is marked by strong strokes of subtle colour. Its buildings remind me of Moscow. Sales were puzzling overall, with frequent ups and downs. Was the mood of caution due to the economy, the art on offer or other factors? Sotheby’s conducted a good event and took some chances with more recent art. It later confirmed some passed works had since found buyers.
The final spring sale was Joyner on King Street East. In general, the sale was set up well in new premises and the staff, as usual, managed to find works by less known but solid Canadian artists. An example was Frederick Loveroff, a Russian emigrant who earned a scholarship to the Ontario College of Art. His work was forgotten for many years, but Joyner’s has made headway with values. Winter Landscape, circa late 1920s, sold for $34,000.
Other quality works included Mountain Sketch VII by Lawren Harris, sold at $280,000, and a fabulous vintage portfolio, Ten Canadian Prints, by W.J. Phillips. It’s rare to see an intact Phillips folio that has never been framed. A lucky buyer picked it up for $11,000. The prime lot was Lone Lake, a watercolour Franklin Carmichael painted in 1929. This stunning piece is large and rhythmic, with colours as fresh as the day he painted them. Its impeccable provenance includes a 2010 exhibition at the McMichael gallery in Kleinburg, Ont. It sold for $280,000, a record for the artist. The morning sale progressed well. Auctioneer Robert Cowley knocked down lot after lot, and was clear and accurate with his numbers. As with all major auction houses, a contemporary section was included. Works included William Kurelek’s After Church… (1976), which sold for $150,000, and Greg Curnoe’s Mariposa T.T. from his full-size bicycle serigraph, which set a record at $50,000. Doris McCarthy’s The Tip of the Icebergs, reached $38,000 and David Blackwood’s Ephraim Kelloway’s Red Door hit a record high of $55,000.
My favourite contemporary work was Curnoe’s Dessin Anime (1987), a large work on paper. Framed as only Curnoe could, this colourful and wordy piece epitomizes his style. It sold for $36,000 — beyond my reach, which was disappointing. Another work that deserves mention is a small William Ronald oil painting, Reggie Jackson (1978). Loaded with thick paint, this energetic piece is brilliant. It exceeded its estimated price, fetching $14,000 at the hammer. Although the sale was over quickly, Joyner scattered good things throughout and did well.
Overall, I have mixed views on the season. We need fresh faces at sales to take advantage of many wonderful opportunities. Collectors can still find under-priced quality art that appeals to them if they’re prepared to invest for the long term.
Douglas MacLean of Canadian Art Gallery is an art advisor and private dealer living in Canmore, Alberta.
Find slideshows of more images from auctions at
November 7, 2012 Maynards Art & Antiques, Vancouver www.maynardsfineart.com
November 22, 2012 Heffel Fine Art, Toronto www.heffel.com
November 26, 2012 Joyner’s Canadian Fine Art, Toronto www.joynerwaddingtons.ca
November 27, 2012 Sotheby’s Canada, Toronto www.sothebys.com
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MAYNARDS ART & ANTIQUES, SOTHEBY’S CANADA, HEFFEL FINE ART, JOYNER FINE ART
Thomas (Tom) John Thomson, untitled, circa 1915, oil on plywood, 8 1/8" X 10 7/8".
David Alexander Colville, Dog with Bone, 1961, colour serigraph, 29 1/4" X 21".
Christopher Pratt, Landing, oil on board, 30" X 38".
James Edward Hervey (J.E.H.) MacDonald, Early Autumn, Montreal River, Algoma, oil on board, 8 1/2" X 10 3/8".
Gregory Richard Curnoe, Dessin Anime, mixed media on Harumi paper, 77" X 48".
Jean-Paul Lemieux, L’emigre, oil on canvas, 19" X 25 1/2".