Lot Sale Results

James Edward Hervey (J.E.H.) MacDonald
Fall 2015 - 2nd Session Live auction

Lot # 144

James Edward Hervey (J.E.H.) MacDonald
ALC CGP G7 OSA RCA 1873 - 1932 Canadian

Mountain Stream
oil on board circa 1929
on verso titled on the gallery label, inscribed "TM" / "1422A" and stamped with the Dominion Gallery stamp
8 1/2 x 10 1/2 in  21.6 x 26.7cm

Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Private Collection, Toronto

James Edward Hervey MacDonald, "A Glimpse of the West," The Canadian Bookman, November 1924, pages 229 - 231
James Edward Hervey MacDonald Papers, National Archives of Canada, 30D 111, Vol. 1, unpaginated
Ian A.C. Dejardin, Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2013, a similar work entitled Waterfall near Lake O'Hara, 1929, in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, reproduced plate 91, page 166

At J.E.H. MacDonald's beloved Lake O'Hara in the Rockies, many bubbling waterfalls and picturesque mountain streams attracted his attention, and he sat down by several of them to execute fresh, intuitive sketches. He often made his way up to Lake Oesa, and on the way there he was visually enticed to stop along the edges of the gurgling stream that flows down from Lake Oesa and Lefroy Lake - both on the surface and underground - then tumbles down into Lake O'Hara in the main valley below.
Here, he captures the stream in one of its most dramatic moments, as the icy water, fresh out of Lake Oesa and having only recently been released from its frozen glacial state, froths over the rocks in the form of a small waterfall, flowing freely in sheets of clear, cold white. The trail in this area during MacDonald's time would have been a mere mountain goat path, or perhaps a rudimentary climber's trail, yet MacDonald often chose to follow it, climbing along the edges of the treacherous, rocky creek bed and making his way slowly up the valley, painting views in different directions each time. At the place where Mountain Stream was painted, the valley narrows due to the cliff on one side and a field of boulders on the other. Logically, one takes the path of least resistance, which is right beside the stream. Other artists have also found this spot enticing, and Walter J. Phillips is known to have painted several works just a few steps away from it.
MacDonald's perspective in Mountain Stream looks steeply upwards from a seated position and thus creates an interesting and somewhat unusual composition. The tops of the trees in a distant patch of forest are seen in the lower right foreground of the work, almost out of sight, and the waterfall itself is directly above us. This composition speaks of the steepness of the trail and brims with the anticipation of seeing the source of the water, the lake that is still to be reached.
MacDonald was astounded by the beauty he found at Lake O'Hara, and upon his return to Toronto from his first trip there in 1924, he wrote, "I got the beautiful Lake O'Hara, lying in a rainbow sleep, under the steeps of Mount Lefroy and the waterfalls of Oesa. And there I realized some of the blessedness of mortals...For nineteen days I wandered in the neighbourhood of O'Hara. I sat and sketched her beauty, I looked at the emerald and violet of her colour. It is emerald and malachite, and jade, and rainbow green, and mermaid's eyes, and the beads of Saint Bridget, and the jewels of Patrick's Crown, and anything else the delighted imagination can ascribe to it."
While the grey sky in this work indicates less than perfect weather, days like this were the ones that delighted the artist, and as he further described, "There were grey cold days when one heard the echoes of chaos and cold nights on the upper slopes." The low light of this overcast day accentuates the colours of the greenery in his sketch, and passing rain has heightened the smoky purples and blues of the rocks. MacDonald has captured the idea of rapidly moving water well, following the principles he taught to his students at the Ontario College of Art. He stated, "Speed helps in sketching just as in sprinting. Try to grasp the idea of your subject quickly...Get the effect, it goes quickest, the objects remain and can be studied at leisure if need be."
We thank Lisa Christensen, author of The Lake O'Hara Art of J.E.H. MacDonald and Hiker's Guide and director of Heffel's Calgary office, for contributing the above essay.

Estimate: $100,000 ~ $150,000 CAD

Sold For: $200,600.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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