L'automne 2009 - 2e séance Vente en salle
Lot # 235
Frederick Horsman Varley
ARCA G7 OSA 1881 - 1969 Canadian
Nude on a Couch
oil on canvas on artist board
signed and with the artist's thumbprint and on verso titled on several museum exhibition labels and dated 1940 on a label and labeled with the Varley Inventory #100
18 x 14 in 45.7 x 35.6cm
Laing Galleries, Toronto
Charles S. Band, Toronto, acquired from the above in 1957
Estate of Helen E. Band, Toronto
The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Band, Contemporary Canadian Painting and Drawing, Albright Art Gallery, 1958, listed page 9
The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Band, Art Gallery of Toronto, 1963, listed page 21
Christopher Varley, F.H. Varley, Canadian Artists Series, National Gallery of Canada, 1979, reproduced page 27
Christopher Varley, F.H. Varley: A Centennial Exhibition, Edmonton Art Gallery, 1981, page 148, reproduced page 149
Peter Varley, Frederick H. Varley, 1983, essay by Joyce Zemans, page 72, reproduced page 162
Art Gallery of Hamilton, The C.S. Band Collection, November 5 - 30, 1954, titled as Slumber, catalogue #42
Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Band, Contemporary Canadian Painting and Drawing, October 1 - November 2, 1958, catalogue #32
Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, Private Collectors' Choice in Canadian Art, September 1959
Vancouver Art Gallery, Painting and Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Band, March 1 - 21, 1960, catalogue #32
Willistead Art Gallery, Windsor, Canadian Paintings and Drawings from the C.S. Band Collection, April 29 - May 29, 1961, catalogue #22
Rodman Hall Arts Centre, St. Catharines, F.H. Varley, Paintings & Drawings from the C.S. Band Collection, November 1962
Art Gallery of Toronto, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Band, February 15 - March 24, 1963, traveling to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, May 23 - September 1, 1963, catalogue #41
Art Gallery of Ontario, F.H. Varley: A Centennial Ex
Nude on a Couch is not Frederick Varley's only nude, but it is, arguably, his greatest, and one of the most evocative and enigmatic paintings of his career. Long a part of one of the most distinguished collections of Canadian art formed in the first half of the 20th century, the painting is a remarkable tour-de-force of the painter's art. The work is at once profoundly sensual, and yet, as art historian Joyce Zemans has noted, "there is something jarring about it." Christopher Varley, in his centenary exhibition catalogue, links this work to the powerful nudes of the great Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele, and notes the "warm colour on the model's nipple and knee" which "remind us of the Viennese painter's mottled flesh tones." While such connections are suggestive, Nude on a Couch is, however, Varley's own image, and an important landmark within his development as an artist.
It is, nevertheless, easy to see why the work has produced a sense of disquiet amongst viewers. The work is a series of contrasts - the extreme openness and vulnerability of the pose is countermanded by the fact that much of her "angelic" face is covered. She is at once available and removed. The softness of her body and the sinuous flow of the lines which delineate her body are markedly different from, as Zemans describes, the "roughly textured, cool-coloured drapery on which she lies." Indeed, the treatment of the drapery might almost be described as brutal, and belies the tenderness and vulnerability of her pose. So too, is the distant landscape slightly unnerving. We find ourselves asking why this woman would be naked and alone in this glowering landscape. There are no immediate answers, and this ambiguity is part of what makes the work so memorable.
One of the most striking aspects of Nude on a Couch is the dramatic composition. The figure is abruptly cropped and the space of the painting is unclear - we seem to be viewing her from slightly above, yet she is clearly not at our feet - and there is a suggestion of a couch (the curved element at the lower left is, one presumes, the arm of the couch). Varley seems to have consciously avoided the easy and conventionally pretty in favour of a difficult but more powerful beauty. Such decisions are what give the painting such visual force. Christopher Varley was surely right when he called this one of Varley's "most inventive and powerful compositions."
How then are we to read this work? The work shares some of the sexual abandon seen in the drawing Nude Standing, 1933 - 1935 (in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada) but has none of the coyness of that figure. Instead we see an image which seems almost achingly tender. Viewers must complete their own narrative when considering this subtle and complex image. While one may be left wondering as to the precise meaning of the work and the identity of the model, one cannot forget the uncanny power and beauty of this singularly compelling work.
Estimation: 400,000 $ ~ 500,000 $ CAN
Vendu pour: 585,000.00 $ CAN (prime d'achat incluse)