Posted by & filed under Consignor Canadian Fine Art News & Press, Consignor Updates, Sale Updates.

Franklin Carmichael, Old Orchard (1940)

(Toronto – May 2, 2017) Two celebrated artworks by Group of Seven painter Franklin Carmichael are the centerpiece to Consignor Canadian Fine Art’s upcoming Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art taking place May 25th at the Gardiner Museum, Toronto. A large-scale oil painting, Old Orchard (1940), will make its auction debut having been privately owned by the family of Herbert Laurence Rous, founder of the renown Rous and Mann printing studio where many of the Group of Seven artists began their careers.

The iconic image depicting a neighbour’s orchard, painted from the view of his studio in present-day North York, Ontario, was used as the catalogue cover for Carmichael’s memorial exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the AGO) and the Summer 1947 issue of Canadian Art Magazine, following his death. This will be the first time Old Orchard will be on the auction block (estimated between $500,000 – $700,000); however, given its significance, quality and rarity, the artwork is expected to challenge the current record for a Carmichael painting (Frood Lake sold at auction in December, 2002, for $915,000 including buyer’s premium).

As the youngest original member of the Group of Seven, Carmichael is also considered one of Canada’s most renowned watercolourists of the twentieth century. Consignor’s auction also includes a stunning watercolour, The Bay of Islands (1929) estimated at $150,000 – $200,000, a sister version of Carmichael’s Bay of Islands that is part of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s permanent collection.

“Franklin Carmichael’s accomplishments in oil and watercolour are recognized as some of the greatest work produced by the Group of Seven. Both Old Orchard and The Bay of Islands illustrate Carmichael’s mastery of the two media, setting him apart as one of Canada’s preeminent painters,” says Rob Cowley, President of Consignor Canadian Fine Art. “Old Orchard has stood as an example of Carmichael’s best work through its exhibition history over the past 80 years, and we are very excited to be hosting this major work at auction for the first time.”

Consignor’s Spring auction will also offer two important works by Tom Thomson painted in his early career. A modestly-sized oil on canvas, Road Near Leith (1908), estimated between $100,000 to $150,000, was painted at the start of the decade which would see his transformation into one of Canada’s greatest painters; and Fallen Timber (Algonquin) (1912), estimated at $150,000 – $200,000, was painted the first year that Thomson visited Algonquin Park where his most iconic works would be created, and ironically the site of his untimely death in 1917, exactly 100 years ago this July.

“It’s an incredible time for Canadian art as we celebrate our country’s sesquicentennial, alongside unprecedented growth and global attention for painters such as Tom Thomson, Lawren Harris and the Group of Seven and now a feature film about Maud Lewis’s life — combining to reinvigorate the public’s fascination and appreciation for Canadian artists,” says Lydia Abbott, Vice President, Consignor Canadian Fine Art. “The Spring auction features artwork that spans the entire 150 years of Canada’s history and presents a rich narrative of our cultural fabric.”

Other notable Canadian works of art that will be highlighted in Consignor’s live Spring auction include:

  • A.Y. Jackson, Madawaska, 20” x 26” oil on canvas (auction estimate $60,000-$80,000)
  • David Blackwood, Fire Down on the Labrador, the artist’s most popular print (auction estimate $25,000-$30,000)
  • Lawren Harris, Snow-Covered Trees, 1929 gouache (auction estimate $15,000-$18,000)
  • Edwin Holgate, Autumn Leaves, 17” x 21” oil on canvas (auction estimate $90,000-120,000)

Live Previews are currently taking place at the Consignor Canadian Fine Art Gallery located at 326 Dundas Street West and viewable at  Consignor’s Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art will take place on Thursday, May 25th, 2017 at the Gardiner Museum located at 111 Queen’s Park, Toronto.

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). Most recently, Consignor’s 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.

Consignor Canadian Fine Art is currently accepting consignments for its upcoming auctions, including the June Online Auction of Canadian and International Artwork, with bidding open at from June 7-14, 2017. Consignor 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 Consignor’s specialists at 1-866-931-8415 or [email protected]

Posted by & filed under Consignor Updates, Sale Updates.

Our Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art includes a number of portraits by artists from a wide array of backgrounds. In certain works, importance is placed on the sitter’s identity, while in others the model is secondary to a particular sentiment or underlying message. Media and formal qualities such as colour scheme and brushstroke application also play a role in the artist’s intentions for presenting a human figure in a work of art.

The longstanding practice of portraiture was historically intended for documenting and memorializing the rich and powerful. Prior to the invention of photography,  a painted, sculpted, or drawn portrait was the only way to record one’s appearance. Customarily, most completed works consisted of a serious, closed-lip stare, rarely demonstrating any emotion beyond a slight smile. In most cases the artist’s objective was to capture the inner essence of the subject – the expression of character and moral quality, as opposed to anything superficial or temporary. Following the invention of photography and developments in modern art, portraiture has evolved as a practice to be much more liberated for personal expression and experimentation.

The artists whose portraits are featured in our Spring Live Auction had the freedom to portray their subjects in their own individual style and for whichever purpose they chose. This blog entry takes a closer look at what makes a selection of six of these artworks significant and what differentiates them from one another, as I believe portraits can be better and further appreciated when a context is provided.

Lot #28

William Goodridge Roberts

Seated Nude (Joan)

oil on canvas

signed and dated “May, 1955” lower right

32 x 25 ins (81.3 x 63.5 cms)

Estimated: $14,000-18,000

Goodridge Roberts (1904-1974) was known for landscapes, portraits and still lifes with vivid colours and expressive brushstrokes. The identity of the sitter is particularly pertinent in this example of the Roberts’ work, as she is the artist’s wife. Painted in 1955, the artwork was acquired by the current owner directly from Mrs. Roberts in 1977. Joan’s relaxed pose, together with the casual interior setting with loosely draped fabric, alludes to a strong sense of intimacy in the picture; this is reinforced by our knowledge of the relationship between the sitter and the artist.


Lot #29

Jean Paul Lemieux

Dame au collier de perles

oil on canvas

signed lower right; titled on the stretcher

20 x 16 ins (50.8 x 40.6 cms)

Estimated: $30,000-50,000

Dame au collier de perles illustrates Jean Paul Lemieux’s ability to highlight human emotion and facial expression. Arguably the most famous Quebecois artist, Lemieux’s (1904-1990) portraits were often influenced by Edvard Munch and the Expressionist school of painting, as they evoke anxiety and the artist’s dark and tragic vision. The unidentified sitter’s powerful stare directly at the viewer exudes anxiousness and vulnerability; it is contrasted, however, with an ornate three-strand pearl necklace and glamorous red dress. A woman wearing a necklace became a recurring motif in Lemieux’s portraits, referencing the popular theme of feminine vanity in Western painting.

Lot #49

Joe Fafard

Painter and His Model (Egon Schiele)

chemical patina on bronze

signed, dated 2015 and numbered 1/3

28.5 x 10 x 10 ins (72.4 x 25.4 x 25.4 cms) (overall)

Estimated: $12,000-16,000

Contemporary sculptor Joe Fafard (b. 1942) created his ‘Mes Amis’ series as a tribute to those who have inspired him in his own artwork, whether it be artists, friends or family members. Exhibited in 2015 at the Slate Fine Art Gallery in Regina, the series included sculptures of several 19th and 20th century artists, such as Emily Carr, Michael Snow, Georgia O’Keeffe, and in this case, Egon Schiele. Fafard depicts the Austrian painter Schiele, who is known for his nude figural works and self-portraits, standing with a naked man hugging him from behind, thus forming “The Painter and His Model.”

Lot #63

Evan Penny

L. Faux

plaster sculpture, mounted on a wood frame

43 x 36 x 12 ins (109.2 x 91.4 x 30.5 cms) (overall)

Estimate: $7,000-9,000

Contemporary artist Evan Penny (b. 1952) worked with FX Smith in Toronto in the 1990s, making prosthetics, body doubles and other props for a variety of films. This experience inspired his later three-dimensional works, notably this relief sculpture from the L. Faux series from 2000-2005. The production plaster explores the notion of blurring boundaries between the real and the replica in its extraordinary detail that creates a lifelike three-dimensional portrait of Libby Faux. Executed in high relief, the sculptural aesthetic of L. Faux reminds us of the white marble portrait busts of Ancient Rome.


Lot #91

Randolph Hewton

Portrait of Thomas Archer, Esq.

oil on canvas

40 x 33 ins (101.6 cms x 83.8 cms)

Estimated: $6,000-8,000

A Montreal native who studied in Paris, Randolph Hewton (1888-1960) was a pioneer of Modernism in Canadian painting of the early twentieth century. Portrait of Thomas Archer, Esq. was likely a commissioned work and demonstrates Hewton’s modernist take on the traditional practice of portraiture. The sitter’s attire suggests a formal or professional demeanor, though his cross-legged pose with a book on his lap and cigarette in his hand indicates a more casual or ‘modern’ tone to the painting. Hewton’s use of vibrant colours were at first controversial in Canada, as he had adopted this palette from the European Avant-Garde while in Paris from 1908 to 1913.


Lot #108

Marc-Aurèle Suzor-Coté

Portrait of a Woman

oil on canvas

signed lower right

13 x 12 ins (33 x 30 cms)

Estimated: $5,000-7,000

Marc-Aurèle Suzor-Coté (1869-1937) was a famous French-Canadian artist known for his landscape paintings as well as portraits of their rural inhabitants. The artist had a deep respect and empathy for his sitters, as emphasized in this portrait of a peasant woman in profile. Suzor-Coté was influenced by 19th century French Realist artists such as Jean-François Millet. The Realists had the controversial objective to place importance on the working-class and elevate their status as worthy subjects for portraiture – which had traditionally been reserved for the wealthy.

Posted by & filed under Consignor Updates, How to, Sale Updates.

Ghitta Caiserman-Roth, Lanterns

With 262 lots in our March Online Auction of Canadian and International Art, we see artwork for sale with a very large range in value. Although the covetable A.J. Casson and Albert Henry Robinson oil paintings garner much attention from seasoned collectors, it is worth noting the remarkable value and quality of the many more modestly priced artworks for sale. While estimates range from $50 to $15,000, there can be a tendency to believe that only the high-profile items are relevant and worthy of attention within the art market. There is also a misconception that art auctions do not offer anything affordable to begin with. The reality is that art of good quality and value can be found at any price, and an art auction can be the ideal place to find it.

If you have an interest in starting an art collection, an auction is a perfect place to do so and should not be intimidating. The quality and value of the lower estimated artworks can be far superior to something of the same price at a commercial gallery or retail store. I have compiled a selection of nine noteworthy artworks from our March online auction, in a variety of styles and mediums, each of which are estimated to sell for below $1000. As a young professional in the art world, I would like to demonstrate that it can be accessible to all, regardless of one’s budget. The concept of building an art collection does not have to be so far out of reach.

A few things to keep in mind: The estimate is our prediction of the selling price based on previous sales of similar works at auction – however, it is possible for the work to sell for below or above the estimate. Also note that a buyer’s premium of 15% and applicable taxes are added to the final selling price of an artwork. All of the following artworks are framed, avoiding any extra costs and making it easy to instantly hang up on a wall.


Conyers Barker, Toronto Skyline

Lot #30
Ernest C. Barker
Toronto Skyline
oil on board
signed and dated ‘28 lower left; signed, titled and dated 1928 on the reverse
8.5 x 10.5 ins ( 21.6 x 26.7 cms )
Estimated: $300.00 – $500.00
For the Toronto native or admirer of architectural history, this original oil painting illustrates a very early view of Toronto’s skyline – dating to 1928. The semi-abstract composition in mint green and lavender provides a rare depiction of Toronto from a past time.


Ghitta Caiserman-Roth, LanternsLot #90
Ghitta Caiserman-Roth
oil and gouache on masonite
signed and dated 50 lower right
22 x 54 ins ( 55.9 x 137.2 cms )
Estimated: $500.00 – $700.00
For the year 1950, the artwork has a very contemporary aesthetic to it, in the quasi-abstract lanterns and moody colour scheme. A Montreal native, Caiserman-Roth studied at the Parsons School of Design and Art Student League in New York, as well as the Musee des Beaux Arts in Montreal.


A.J. Casson, Oriental PoppiesLot #132
A.J. Casson
Oriental Poppies
signed, numbered 27/30 and dated 1986 in the lower margin
7 x 7.5 ins ( 17.8 x 19.1 cms ) ( subject )
Estimated: $400.00 – $600.00
Casson was a prominent member of the renowned group of Seven, the most internationally recognized association of Canadian artists. While his oil Sombre Day, Lake of Bays is the highest valued artwork in the March auction, the prolific artist produced numerous prints which sell for a more modest price. The brightly coloured flowers of this linocut has a fresh, modern palette and Pop Art quality to it.



W. Kurelek, The SlamLot #143
William Kurelek
The Slam
colour lithograph
signed within plate; signed and numbered 96/225 in the lower margin
12 x 9.5 ins ( 30.5 x 24.1 cms ) ( subject )
Estimated: $400.00 – $600.00
For the sports fan, Kurelek’s lithograph is a playful, whimsical rendition of a mixed-doubles tennis match. A very popular artist whose original works sell for high prices, Kurelek’s prints are still very much in demand, though at a much more affordable price range.





N. Morrisseau, Shaman Astral Guide IILot #161
Norval Morrisseau
Shaman Astral Guide II
colour serigraph
signed, titled and numbered 91/220 in the lower margin
29 x 13 ins ( 73.7 x 33 cms )
Estimated: $300.00 – $400.00
A self-taught painter, printmaker, and illustrator, Morrisseau’s colourful images depicting First Nations subjects were initially criticized in the Native community for its disclosure of traditional spiritual knowledge. Morrisseau came to develop a very strong reputation, completing many commissions including the Indians of Canada Pavilion at Expo 67. This large serigraph offers a very colourful addition to a room, along with carrying cultural significance.




J. Hinton, Brooklyn Bridge DoubleLot #172
Jane Hinton
Brooklyn Bridge Double (1994-99)
silver print
edition 1/10
14 x 40 ins ( 35.6 x 101.6 cms )
Estimated: $400.00 – $600.00
A contemporary Toronto photographer, Hinton has exhibited internationally and her work is found in numerous collections around the world. The artist is particularly fascinated by bridges, with Brooklyn Bridge Double (1994-99) being an example. Hinton’s work is currently for sale at an art gallery at much higher prices.


E. Bartram, Island Cove, Georgian BayLot #174
Ed Bartram
Island Cove, Georgian Bay
etching with hand colouring
signed, titled, dated 1998 and inscribed VE 1/10 in the margin
25.5 x 31 ins ( 64.8 x 78.7 cms )
Estimated: $500.00 – $700.00
Ed Bartram provides a very contemporary take on the Group of Seven’s favourite subject: Georgian Bay. The large size, brand-new frame and jewel-toned blues make this etching an eye-catching addition to any room and art collection.



F. Armington, Monte CarloLot #201
Frank Armington
Monte Carlo
signed lower right, titled and dated 1919 lower left
15.5 x 12.25 ins ( 39.4 x 31.1 cms ) ( sight )
Estimated: $600.00 – $800.00
Armington is a Canadian born and raised artist, although the majority of his work depicts European scenery. Based in Paris from 1905 to 1939, the artist portrayed French urban and rural landscapes in a variety of mediums, including etchings, lithographs and watercolours.





K. Saito, Girl With CatLot #217
Kiyoshi Saito
Girl with Cat
block print
signed in lower margin
5 x 7.25 ins ( 12.7 x 18.4 cms ) ( subject )
Estimated: $300.00 – $400.00
This adorable woodblock print seems to speak for itself. Saito was one of the first Japanese printmakers to have won at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1951.

Posted by & filed under Consignor Updates, Sale Updates.

J.E.H. MacDonald, Tracks And Traffic, 1912Notable Works by the Group of Seven, Jock Macdonald and William Kurelek Also Perform Strongly at November 22nd Sale

A 1912 oil sketch by Group of Seven member J.E.H. MacDonald sold for $230,000 at auction on Tuesday night, including a 15 per cent buyer’s premium.

Tracks and Traffic was among several notable works up for sale at Consignor Canadian Fine Art’s fall auction. It had a pre-sale estimated value of between $200,000 and $250,000 not including the buyer’s premium.

Tracks and Traffic provides a glimpse of what Toronto looked like more than a century ago, depicting a scene from the Harbourfront neighbourhood during the industrial period.

MacDonald and Lawren Harris were close friends and the pair often painted together in Toronto. Tracks and Traffic was created months after the two artists met in late 1911 and eight years before the Group of Seven was formed.

Harris sketched the scene from another angle, suggesting that the two artists could have been together during the painting expedition.

MacDonald’s subsequent oil canvas based on the sketch was included in the Toronto stop of the Steve Martin-curated exhibit The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris, which was presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario earlier this year as well as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Other items up for sale included works from the Group of Seven, Jock MacDonald and William Kurelek.

An important canvas by Painters Eleven founding member Jock MacDonald, Daybreak from his Modality series, sold for $69,000.

An oil on panel by Group of Seven member Franklin Carmichael, owned by a descendent of the artist, Bracken, Lansing sold for $69,000.

A work by William Kurelek, Candy Floss Clouds, sold for $34,500.

A charming 1907 painting of a mother and child by J.E.H. MacDonald titled A Hill Path, High Park sold for $27,600. The painting is believed to have been a gift from MacDonald to Albert H. Robson, a Canadian art author, historian and former vice-president of the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the AGO) more than a century ago.

Press Coverage:


680 News


Posted by & filed under Consignor Canadian Fine Art News & Press, Consignor Updates, Sale Updates.

Tom Thomson, Jean Paul Riopelle, and a well-known work by Jock MacDonald Featured at Consignor’s Fall Live Auction on November 22nd

(Toronto – November 7, 2016) – Following Consignor Canadian Fine Arts highly successful live auction debut in May 2016 (that included a record-breaking sale of Lawren Harris’s Algoma Sketch 48), the auction house launches its second live auction event featuring an exciting catalogue of important Canadian works, to be held at the historic Berkeley Church in downtown Toronto on November 22, 2016. A 1912 sketch by founding Group of Seven member and one of Canada’s most celebrated painters, J.E.H. MacDonald, Tracks and Traffic (auction estimate: $200,000 to $250,000), will anchor the auction.

Tracks and Traffic is a sketch of the well-known canvas that is currently part of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s (AGO) collection, and was recently included in the Toronto showing of the Steve Martin-curated exhibition, The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris. The work provides a glimpse of what the city of Toronto looked like over a century ago, and depicts a scene of the harbourfront neighbourhood at the intersection of Bathurst Street and Front Street during the industrial period.

It is well known that MacDonald was one of Lawren Harris’s closest friends and the pair often painted together in Toronto. Tracks and Traffic was created just months after the two artists met in late 1911, and eight years before the formation of the Group of Seven. Harris also sketched this scene from another angle, suggesting that the friends could have been together during the painting expedition. If so, the sketch would mark one of the very first examples of members of the Group of Seven painting together.

We’re thrilled to follow up on the success of our inaugural live auction, with a strong offering of exemplary artworks by many of Canada’s most beloved artists,” said Rob Cowley, President of Consignor Canadian Fine Art. “The fall catalogue features many artworks hitting the auction block for the first time and we anticipate there will be a great appetite for these works among collectors.”

Auction Debuts and Highlights:

  • DEBUT – An important canvas by Painters Eleven founding member Jock MacDonald, Daybreak from his Modality series (auction estimate: $70,000 to $90,000)
  • 1962 canvas by internationally celebrated Quebec painter, Jean Paul Riopelle, Forteresse (auction estimate: $140,000 to $180,000)
  • 1912 painting by Tom Thomson, Country Landscape with Stream (Huntsville) (auction estimate: $90,000 to $120,000)
  • DEBUT – Two works by Group of Seven member Franklin Carmichael, owned by a descendent of the artist. Bracken, Lansing oil on panel (auction estimate: $60,000 to $80,000); and a Carmichael watercolour, Forest Landscape (auction estimate: $40,000 to $60,000)
  • A large-scale painting by artist Ted Harrison, who passed away in 2015, The Grecian House (auction estimate: $45,000 to $60,000)
  • Several notable works by William Kurelek including the mixed media painting, Russian Thistles Migrating (auction estimate: $60,000 to $80,000); and Candy Floss Clouds, painted the year of his death (auction estimate: $30,000 to $40,000)
  • DEBUT – A charming 1907 painting of a mother and child by J.E.H. MacDonald titled A Hill Path, High Park (auction estimate: $20,000 to $30,000). The painting is believed to have been a gift from MacDonald to Albert H. Robson, a Canadian art author, historian and former VP of the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the AGO) more than a century ago. The painting, owned by the family of Albert H. Robson, is offered for sale for the first time. 
  • Four paintings by Group of Seven member A.J. Casson including Lumber Mill, 1935 (auction estimate: $35,000 to $45,000)
  • A large-scale work from Harold Town’s highly acclaimed Tyranny of the Corner series, the Hypothesis Set (auction estimate: $20,000 to $30,000)

To preview the full catalogue online, go to Live previews will take place until November 21 at the Consignor Canadian Fine Art Gallery located at 326 Dundas Street West. Consignor’s Fall Auction of Important Canadian Art will be held on Tuesday, November 22, 7:00 pm at the Berkeley Church, located at 315 Queen St. E. in Toronto, ON.

Since its inception in 2013, Consignor’s auctions have included headline-grabbing and record-breaking works including Algoma Sketch 48, a rare Lawren Harris preparatory oil sketch that debuted on the auction block at Consignor’s inaugural live auction event in May 2016 and set the record for the highest-selling Algoma sketch ($977,500) by the artist at auction. Other highlights include a 100-year-old Tom Thomson portrait (Daydreaming, sold for $172,500) and an undiscovered William Kurelek (Ukrainian Proverb, sold for $41,400, well above its estimated value). Consignor’s offering of 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), and its June 2014 auction saw eight artists’ records broken.

Consignor is also holding an online December Auction of Artwork, from December 7-14, 2016. Consignor 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 Consignor’s specialists at 1-866-931-8415 or [email protected]. Consignor is currently accepting artwork for inclusion in its Spring 2017 auctions.

Consignor Canadian Fine Art is a partnership between art auction veterans Rob Cowley, Lydia Abbott and Ryan Mayberry (Partner at Mayberry Fine Art and Founder of Cowley and Abbott became principals in the venture with Ryan Mayberry, taking from its original form, as a branch of Mayberry Fine Art, to a separate company focusing on auctions of Canadian art.

Posted by & filed under Consignor Updates.

Algoma Sketch 48, a rare preparatory oil sketch by Lawren Harris debuted on the auction block at Consignor Canadian Fine Art’s inaugural live auction event tonight in Toronto, fetching $977,500 (significantly above its pre-estimate of $400,000 – $600,000; all prices includes a 15 per cent buyer’s premium, the lowest in the industry). The sale set the record for the highest-selling Algoma sketch by the artist at auction, tripling a previous Harris sketch, Herbert Lake Algoma, which sold for $304,000 in 2013.

Harris painted Algoma Sketch 48 in 1919/1920 during the time when the Group of Seven officially formed as an association of painters. Consignor acquired the exceptional oil sketch from a private seller halfway across the globe in Australia, whose family originally acquired the work from the Toronto-based Mellors-Laing Galleries in 1940.

“The value of this particular Harris piece stems from its rarity as an unknown preparatory work for four of the artist’s well-known large canvases,” said Consignor’s Managing Director Lydia Abbott. “That, combined with an increased interest in Harris’s artwork, made for a truly exceptional centerpiece for our Spring Auction of Important Canadian Art.”

Two other Harris works also fared well at the auction: House, Toronto sold for $115,000 and Shacks sold for $103,500. Additional highlights include:

We are thrilled with the performance of our first-ever live auction”, said Rob Cowley, President of Consignor. “The success of the auction not only cements a new tradition for Consignor but also establishes Consignor’s role among Canada’s most notable art auction houses.”

Since its inception in 2013, Consignor’s auctions have included headline-grabbing works such as a rare 100-year-old Tom Thomson portrait (Daydreaming, sold for $172,500) and an undiscovered William Kurelek (Ukrainian Proverb, sold for $41,400). Consignor’s offering of Jack Bush’s Summer Lake 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), and its June 2014 auction saw eight artists’ records broken.

Press Coverage:



Global News

Toronto Star

National Post

Posted by & filed under Consignor Updates.

Lawren Harris, Algoma, (Algoma Sketch 48) (Photograph by Liam Maloney)

Lawren Harris, Algoma, (Algoma Sketch 48) (Photograph by Liam Maloney)

Painting worth an estimated $400,000-$600,000 discovered on the eve of a major Harris show

by Sara Angel (for Maclean’s)

Last December, Rob Cowley, the president of the Toronto-based auction house Consignor Canadian Fine Art and Appraisers, got an email from an Australian collector inquiring about a piece of art. When he opened the attached photograph, he knew he was looking at something extraordinary. Even though the image was low-res and fuzzy, he instantly recognized it as a version of Island-MacCallum Lake by Lawren Harris, a painting so emblematic of the country’s most important art movement, it was the cover of the National Gallery of Canada’s 1995 book, The Group of Seven: Art for a Nation, written in celebration of the famous painters’ 75th anniversary.

First exhibited in 1921, Island-MacCallum Lake (which now belongs to the Vancouver Art Gallery) is a fall scene of a tree-covered island resting in serene Algoma waters. Long known as one of Harris’s most important works, its subject is one the artist returned to repeatedly; he made at least four known variations of the painting—one of which sold in 2008 for just over a million, reputedly to the actor and comedian Steve Martin.

“Because its tall, thin trees are so distinct,” Cowley says, he knew that he had been sent an image of the painting that Harris had done as a study for Island-MacCallum Lake. He also knew that this work was extremely special because its whereabouts had been unknown. “It had never been in an exhibition, or a book, and that it had never been seen by anyone but its owners’ friends and family for most of the last century.”

From a picture of the back of the painting, Cowley also knew there was no question about its authenticity. It showed a rare label from the Mellors-Laing Galleries, once located at 759 Yonge St. in Toronto. “Because the gallery was in existence for only one year—1940,” says Cowley, “we could date the work’s sale.” The painting’s verso showed the number 48, which corresponded to an inventory of Harris’s art created in 1936.

Talented, well-educated and wealthy (he was heir to the fortune of farm-machinery manufacturer Massey-Harris Co. Ltd) Lawren Harris was the perfect patrician voice to lead the early 20th-century charge for Canadian art. After attending the University of Toronto, he spent four years in Berlin from 1904 to 1908, where he found himself observing a culture whose art schools were being shaken by new approaches toward painting. Impressionism, expressionism, and abstraction were teachings that he brought home and shared with friends, including Tom Thomson and J.E.H. MacDonald. He became the unofficial leader of the Group of Seven, which held its first exhibition in May 1920.

Algoma, the northwestern Ontario region beyond Lake Superior, where Harris found his subject for Island-MacCallum Lake, became a critical geographic inspiration for the group. Harris first visited the territory in May 1918. Mesmerized by its expansive vistas of trees and winding rivers where no clearings could be spotted for miles, he returned to the uncharted territory repeatedly and with fellow Group of Seven members MacDonald, Frank Johnston and A.Y. Jackson. They travelled in a railway boxcar that Harris had refurbished with a sink and a stove so that it could be used for transport and as a living quarter. Few of the lakes in Algoma could be found on a map, so the group named the bright waters they painted after people they admired. Harris titled the scene in Island-MacCallum Lake in homage to Dr. James MacCallum, the renowned patron of Tom Thomson.

What Harris most certainly would never have imagined is how six decades later his study for that work, now known as Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48), would find its way to Australia. In 1940, a Toronto businessman purchased the painting at the Mellors-Laing Galleries. He and his wife placed it on the wall of their family room, where bedtime stories were read to their young daughter. In the 1960s, that daughter moved with her husband to Canberra, but Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48) always remained in her mind. Knowing this, her parents willed her the work, and in the 1980s it became part of her South Pacific home. The painting “always reminded me of comfortable family times and camp days in northern Ontario,” she told Maclean’s, requesting to remain anonymous.

She contacted Cowley not long after Steve Martin thrust Harris into the international art spotlight. Martin, a collector of such 20th-century cultural game- changers as Pablo Picasso, Georges Seurat and Edward Hopper, purchased works by the Canadian painter after he was struck by Harris’s unique ability to render landscape “in a non-European way.” When Ann Philbin, director of Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum, saw paintings by Harris in Martin’s collection she convinced the star to use his celebrity to curate an exhibition for her institution. Wanting to bring Harris to the world’s attention, he agreed, and last October The Idea of North (co-curated with the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Andrew Hunter) opened in L.A. before it travelled to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Next month the show comes to Toronto’s AGO. “Ultimately,” Martin told Maclean’s in advance of the L.A. show, “I think the work is just going to slay everyone.”

Meanwhile, the market has paid unprecedented amounts for his art. Last November, his sales record was broken when the auction house Heffel sold Mountain and Glacier(1930) for $4.6 million, more than triple its presale high estimate of $1.5 million. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by those who own works by Harris. Heffel, as well as Canadian auction house Waddington’s, have Harris paintings in their spring sales. “Arguably there could never be a better time than now to sell works by Harris,” said David Silcox, art historian and former director of Sotheby’s Canada.

Still, because of the Canberra owner’s bond with Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48), she initially had “no interest in selling the work,” says Cowley. “She wanted an appraisal of her painting.” Things only began to change when Cowley explained the historical significance of what was hanging in her living room. By late January, she began to wonder, “How can I hang on to such a critical piece?”

As she is a widow living alone, learning about the value of the work sparked concerns over whether her home had a proper storage and security system. As well, because the painting meant so much to her, she said, “I wanted to make sure that the work ended up in the hands of a collector or institution that appreciated its importance.”

Still, she had a final reservation before letting Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48) out of her home: How would it be sent to Canada? The painting, which was under glass, could not be transported in this format, but removing its frame was a challenge for anyone but an expert. Cowley offered a suggestion: “What if I came to your house to pick up the painting?” That persuaded her to consign the work.

And so, in early February, Cowley left for his first visit to Australia, which, including travel was a 90-hour round trip. “I flew out on a Sunday, arrived on a Tuesday, visited my consignor on the Wednesday and flew back on Thursday.”

When he arrived at his client’s house, Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48) was sitting on her living room sofa. Although the painting had a thin layer of dirt on it—a combination of soot from the woodburning stove in the boxcar where Harris first kept the work plus more than eight decades of dust—Cowley knew the condition of the work was exceptional. “You don’t worry when the painting is dirty,” he explained. “It would be more concerning if it had been improperly cleaned, in which case sometimes damage is done to the art.”

For the next 25 hours Cowley transported Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48) further than any other work by Lawren Harris has ever travelled. The painting, which he carried in a specially insulated, custom-built brief case, was never out of his grasp.

Once back in Toronto, he went straight to the studio of a leading conservator of works by the Group of Seven. Now Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48) is as clean as when Harris finished it in 1920. “Over the last century there was a bit of curvature to the board, which is not uncommon with wood panels,” says Cowley. “Other than that it is pristine.”

On May 31, 2016, Cowley himself will stand at the podium taking bids when Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48) is placed on the block at Consignor Canadian Fine Art’s Spring Auction of Important Canadian Art. For him as well as his client—be it a major gallery or private collector—the scholarship on Harris has taken a step forward. Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48) has now been publicly catalogued, it can be viewed online, it is part of a new dialogue and will likely make it into exhibitions in the near future. “The painting brings me back to the reason why I went into the business,” says Cowley, “It’s a chance to hold history and share it.”

(Source:  Maclean’s)