Lawren Harris, Arctic Sketch XXII, estimate $400,000 – 600,000.

TORONTO - Did you know that Sotheby’s Canadian headquarters is our only salesroom outside of New York City in the Americas?  We hold Important Canadian Art sales in May and November in Toronto, and with just fifteen days to go, our autumn auction season is moving full steam ahead.

The catalogue for our November 27th sale is now available, and has gone live online as well. We will be traveling our preview exhibition to Arsenal in Montreal on November 13; the auction preview at the Royal Ontario Museum runs from November 25 – 27th, and the sale itself is there on the 27th at 7 pm.

In anticipation of those previews, we are excited to offer virtual peeks at highlights of Canadian art, all destined for the auction block this month.

With the international sensation that last year’s Painting Canada exhibition aroused at Dulwich in London, Norway and Holland, and upon its return here to McMichael, this is a particularly timely moment for historical Canadian artworks, and our front gallery is currently home to some of the best examples on the market today. Canadian Impressionism has remained largely undiscovered on the international stage, to which many attribute the comparative affordability of these masterworks, relative to their European counterparts. The Dulwich show is changing that, however, and we are hearing from our global clients more and more as astute collectors are increasingly attentive  to the Canadian market.

Among the many outstanding historical works in the sale is Clarence Alphonse Gagnon’s stunning St. Malo from the Cliffs of St. Briac, a languid daydream captured in high-keyed tones. Estimated at $400,000 – 600,000, this tour-de-force canvas is at once a landscape, seascape and portrait of a quiet childhood afternoon.

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon, St. Malo from the Cliffs of St. Briac, estimate $400,000 – 600,000.

Hanging just nearby is an intimately-scaled, densely-packed panel by the enigmatic Tom Thomson, who is perhaps best-known for his sensitive depictions of Algonquin Park, where he died before he was 40 under mysterious circumstances. Estimated at $750,000 – 1,000,000, this sprited and finely wrought sketch, Winter Sunset, Algonquin Park  is a veritable cultural icon in and of itself, and  has already received some enthusiastic coverage in the Globe and Mail.  

Fans of the Dutch-born 19th century painter Cornelius Krieghoff have been thrilled at the sight of A Private Conversation (estimated at $60,000 – 80,000); the artist managed to capture incredible detail in a canvas measuring just 11 by 13 inches, and several keen collectors have already come to admire the work firsthand at our offices. An equally impressive and large-scale canvas, Visitors in Winter, which has spent its life in Scotland (estimated at $150,000 – 250,000) is another masterwork by this chronicler of early Quebec.

Cornelius Krieghoff, Visitors in Winter, estimate $150,000 – 160,000.

Lawren Harris is having a big season here at Sotheby’s with 5 works in our auction which demonstrate the steep stylistic trajectory of his career. The unofficial leader of the Group of Seven, Harris was fearless in his aesthetic and philosophical experimentation, moving from early urban scenes and landscapes to entirely non-objective painting late in his career.

His brooding 1911 depiction of Toronto’s Ward neighbourhood, Approaching Storm, is estimated at $200,000 – 300,000. The superb chiaroscuro effect lends a contemplative tone, and demonstrates the influence of Caspar David Friedrich and the Fauves, absorbed during Harris’ years studying in Berlin.

In stark contrast, Street In Barrie, Ont. from 1919-20 is a bright and sunny, a light-drenched townscape from just north of the city, where Harris often passed en route to his Lake Simcoe cottage. That work carries the highest estimate in our sale at $900,000 – 1,200,000.

Lawren Harris, Street In Barrie, Ont., estimate $900,000 – 1,200,000.

Gleaming above my desk is Harris’ luminous and ethereal Arctic Sketch XXII. This vivid, lushly painted glacier landscape is deeply expressive of Harris’ admiration for the majesty of the Canadian arctic, and is working quite beautifully as a calming window into a different time and place during these busy pre-auction days!

All these works and more will be on exhibition in Montreal and Toronto prior to the auction; more to come on our blog this week, with a preview on some of the fantastic contemporary Canadian lots in the sale.