Lot Sale Results

Alexander Colville

Alexander Colville

Alexander Colville
Fall 2015 - 1st Session Live auction

Lot # 051

Alexander Colville
PC CC 1920 - 2013 Canadian

Harbour
acrylic polymer emulsion on board
on verso signed, titled and dated 1975
13 1/2 x 21 1/2 in  34.3 x 54.6cm

Provenance:
Galerie Pudelko, Bonn, 1976
By descent to the present Private Collection, Germany

Literature:
Virgil G. Hammock, "Alex Colville: la perfection dans le réalisme / Alex Colville: Perfection and Reality," Vie des Arts, Vol. 21, No. 84, 1976, page 87, reproduced page 17
Marina Vaizey, Alex Colville: Paintings and Drawings, 1970 - 1977, Städtische Kunsthalle and Fischer Fine Art Limited, 1977, listed page 31 and reproduced page 20
David Burnett, Colville, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1983, reproduced page 97, listed page 250, catalogue raisonné #105
Mark A. Cheetham, Alex Colville: The Observer Observed, 1994, page 12

Exhibited:
Gemeentemuseum, Arnhem, Alex Colville: Paintings and Drawings, 1970 - 1977, March 7 - April 10, 1977, traveling in 1977 to Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf and Fischer Fine Art Limited, London, June 9 - July 8, 1977, catalogue #13
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Alex Colville, A Retrospective, July 22 - September 18, 1983, traveling to Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax; Staatliche Kunsthalle, Berlin; The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; and the Vancouver Art Gallery, 1983 - 1984, catalogue #105

By any measure – critical acclaim, national and international recognition, work in prominent collections, economic achievement – Alex Colville was one of the most successful and widely admired artists ever to work in Canada. His posthumous retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada (2014 - 2015) witnessed the enduring popularity and integrity of his work. It is in part because Colville kept himself consciously apart from the major movements in the art world since the 1950s that his paintings are readily accessible. While they may seem simple, even local and unpretentious, they are the product of rigorous planning and skill. Colville’s gift, then, was to let us into his work easily but also to ask us to reflect on its intricacies and through them, ultimately return to existential questions that are more about ourselves in the world than about his art. “An artist constructs a world in each work,” he said to a university audience in 1988. “It is a constructive, and in some sense carpented and imagined [process], and in a certain sense an unreal world. When a person looks at it, the receiving of it involves yet another construction.”
Harbour brilliantly shows both the directness and mystery typical of Colville’s strongest compositions. A response to everyday experiences – being intrigued by the freighter he saw in Halifax Harbour in 1975 and wanting to paint his own Land Rover ("something that I have been wanting to do since I bought the car," he reported) – the work is not content to have us rest on the precisely rendered surfaces that we are invited to contemplate. Meticulously composed on geometrical principles of harmony and balance, it is rendered with Colville’s characteristically precise Pointillist technique. But Colville is always a rigorous editor, showing us just enough to create questions in our minds. For example, while the family dog Shasta’s coat is rendered in full and loving detail, we cannot read the gauges on the Land Rover’s dash. Colville loved cars. He provides full detail about this one’s exterior, perhaps so that we can compare it with the technology of the nearby boat. The visual detail at the bow of this ship suggests waves and thus movement. But is the car moving or still? We do not know.
While Colville’s paintings typically circle around the quotidian experiences that he believed were the most important in our lives, he was careful not to make them too personal or idiosyncratic, not to reveal much about himself. The driver here is clearly based on Colville’s appearance, but Harbour is not a self-portrait in the conventional sense. The dog’s gaze in the direction of the freighter that we as viewers are invited to look at appears in sharp and enigmatic contrast to the driver’s pointed stare towards us. Here Colville wants us to think beyond the surfaces of his painting, beyond its obvious details, so that we may reflect on large, existential questions such as the nature of human versus animal perception or the relationships we have with the machines we build. It is on this plane that we discover the magic in his Realism.
We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto, for contributing the above essay.
This work is in the original frame made by Colville.

Estimate: $500,000 ~ $700,000 CAD

Sold For: $1,888,000.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)


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