Lot # 104
Fall 2012 - 2nd Session Live auction
OSA RCA SCA 1842 - 1910 Canadian
watercolour on paper on canvas
signed and dated 1886
16 x 22 1/4 in 40.6 x 56.5cm
Henry Sandham was born Montreal, and became a well-known painter and illustrator. Early in his life he decided to become an artist, but against his fatherís wishes. While still a young teenager, he began working as a photographic retoucher with William Notman, who had founded a successful photography studio in Montreal. Technically accomplished and innovative, Notman was the first Canadian photographer to establish an international reputation; involved in the Montreal art community, Notman even opened up his studio for artistsí exhibitions. By the age of 18, Sandham was appointed assistant to Notmanís partner John Arthur Fraser, manager of the art department, where he was in a fine position to learn in this artistically stimulating climate. During this period, Sandham honed his artistic skills through the mentoring of Fraser and through contact with artists Adolphe Vogt, Otto Jacob and C.J. Way, who moved in the Notman circle. Sandham also studied anatomy with a doctor to develop his ability to depict the human figure. When Fraser left for Toronto in 1868, Sandham was promoted to head of the art department, producing illustrations for magazines and books, both Canadian and American. By 1877 he was contemplating leaving the firm, but after an offer of partnership he stayed on, and the company became known as Notman and Sandham. This arrangement freed him from the day-to-day concerns, and left him more time to paint and pursue drawing illustrations. One of Sandhamís biggest projects was the illustration of George Grantís article The Dominion of Canada for Scribnerís magazine. His watercolour subjects were diverse, ranging from Montreal dockyards to a Micmac Indian camp in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In 1880, Sandham became director of the Saint John office; the partnership between Notman and Sandham lasted until 1882.
Sandham was a founding member of the Society of Canadian Artists, and when the Royal Canadian Academy was formed, he was appointed to it. He frequently exhibited with the Art Association of Montreal at their annual exhibitions. Historian Dennis Reid notes that many of his paintings are based on Notman composite photographs, for which the studio was well known. Sandham also did large paintings of historical American subjects such as The Dawn of Liberty, in the National Collection of Fine Arts in Washington, and The March of Time, in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art until they de-acquisitioned the work due to a decision to limit their collection to American artists. Sandham was also a fine portraitist, and produced a painting of Sir John A. MacDonald in 1889, which hangs in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
This delightful watercolour shows Sandhamís technical accomplishments, particularly in the surface of the ice with its textures, including criss-crossed lines from the skates, and in the shadows of the skaters. The work is an interesting study in human relationships, with the focus on the foreground couple skating in tandem under the watchful eyes of two women, one on each side. What their relationships might be and the motivation of their scrutiny is unclear, but the handsome young couple skate along quite oblivious to it. Sandhamís awareness of the delicate sentiments of his characters in their societal interactions makes the potential narrative quite intriguing. Such activities as skating and skating balls were popular and socially accepted activities at that time. From Sandhamís observations, it seems clear that such events offered fine possibilities for courtship rituals! In addition, the Impressionists, who came to prominence in the 1870s and 1880s, had popularized the portrayal of the leisure activities of the emergent middle class, showing people naturally enjoying their life, as in this work.
Sandham is an important early Canadian artist. The National Gallery of Canada has a large collection of his drawings and watercolours - 374 altogether - including a circa 1881 Ė 1883 graphite drawing entitled Studies of Skaters. The McCord Museum in Montreal also has Sandhamís photographs, prints and paintings in their collection, including an 1870 work entitled Skating Carnival, a painted Notman composite photograph credited to him. Sandham watercolours, such as this outstanding example, are rare to the market.
$32,175 CAD (including Buyer's Premium)
All prices are in Canadian Dollars.
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