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Alexander Colville

Alexander Colville
L'automne 2010 - 1ère séance Vente en salle

Lot # 017

Alexander Colville
PC CC 1920 - 2013 Canadian

Man on Verandah
glazed tempera on board
signed and dated 1953 and on verso signed, titled, dated, inscribed "Glazed Tempera" and stamped Dominion Gallery
15 x 20 pouces  38.1 x 50.8cm

Dominion Gallery, Montreal
G. Hamilton Southam, Ottawa
By descent to the present Private Collection, Ontario

Helen J. Dow, The Art of Alex Colville, 1972, reproduced page 145
David Burnett, Colville, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1983, page 18, reproduced page 143, listed page 245

Hewitt Gallery, New York, Alex Colville, 1955
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Circulating Exhibition No. 63-9, loan #63.1497, traveling to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
National Gallery of Canada, organizer, Recent Canadian Painting, Warsaw, Poland, 1962
San Francisco Museum of Art, 16 Canadian Artists, June 10 - July 4, 1965
Art Gallery of Ontario, Colville, 1982, catalogue #37

Man on Verandah exemplifies many of Alex Colville’s aesthetic commitments in a memorable and thought-provoking image. It is surely one of his early masterpieces and easily comparable in quality and interest to his best known and more written-about paintings. The work is also distinguished by its centrality in G. Hamilton Southam’s extraordinary collection.

Colville’s minimal title invites us to look for ourselves, both at the gentleman who is himself gazing out to sea and at the details that his eyes do not engage. While Colville’s meticulously designed and finished painting focuses on the human predicament, the man is not alone. A cat sits behind him, absorbed in its own animal consciousness. A rowboat and sailboat are moored offshore, conspicuously empty. The man seems to look past them, either at something else or simply at the ocean.

The neutrality of Colville’s paintings and titles supports our own narrative constructions. We are not told who this man is – though we know he is Rhoda Colville’s stepfather, Burnell Cox, and that he looks out over Evangeline Beach near Wolfville, NS – because biography is not Colville’s goal. No doubt the image has particular resonance for the Colvilles, but for the broad audience that the artist wants to address, the man’s calm dignity is that of humanity in its old age. Do the two boats suggest that Mr. Cox was bereaved, that he is now one and alone? Perhaps, but if so, this is a universal condition that Colville the philosopher lays out for our contemplation.

For Colville, what is important is what happens to us every day in our immediate familial and physical surroundings. How do we behave towards loved ones? Do we act in harmony with animal and physical nature? Can we see past surfaces? Man on Verandah consolidates this attitude. It is an advance towards Colville’s commitment to the everyday, a step towards realism and away from the surreal juxtapositions, the magic realism of his work circa1950.

Man on Verandah was completed at a time when Colville was confidently asserting his resistance to what he construed as the hegemony of abstraction. His type of painting was courageous in the 1950s when abstract art ruled in New York City, in European art capitals, and in both Montreal and Toronto. He first went to New York in May of 1952 and secured commercial representation at the Hewitt Gallery. Successful exhibitions there in 1953 and 1955 (the year in which Man on Verandah was shown) sparked the international attention to Colville’s art that continues to this day. When Edwin Hewitt closed his doors in 1955, Colville worked briefly with the Dominion Gallery in Montreal, whose stamp and label are on the painting’s back. The fact that Man on Verandah was exhibited in group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in the mid 1960s, and in 1962 in the group show Recent Canadian Painting in Warsaw, Poland, organized by the National Gallery, reminds us that Colville was not alone in supporting the cause of realism in painting. Colville concentrated on the details of his own life in the Maritimes, but he is an international artist.

Because Colville habitually extrapolates personal stories to their universal dimensions, Man on Verandah is not a portrait in the conventional sense. “There are these big questions,” he insisted in an interview; “What’s it all about? What’s happening?” Colville wants everyday people to engage with such existential imponderables through his work. He does not specify answers but instead provides moorings for our own thinking. Thus he places the two boats in this image for us to see. He renders the man’s face in great detail for us to investigate. But how would we construe his expression, his mood? Intense? Agitated? Resigned? Passive? We would have to answer ‘no’ to all these alternatives. The man’s gaze is contained, his hands gently folded in his lap. He is just looking. His reality just “is”, and that is its profundity.

We thank Mark Cheetham, author of Alex Colville: The Observer Observed, for contributing the above essay.

Estimation: 400,000 $ ~ 600,000 $ CAN

S'est vendu pour: 1,287,000.00 $ CAN (prime d'achat incluse)

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