LOT 121

1882 - 1953

watercolour on paper, 1940
on verso titled and inscribed by Douglas Duncan "W-181" (crossed out) / "191" and by the Duncan Estate "545" and "193"
13 1/4 x 14 1/4 in, 33.7 x 36.2 cm

Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000 CAD

Sold for: $21,250

Preview at:

Marlborough-Godard, Toronto, 1976
G.E. Shewell, Ottawa, 1976
Canadian Art, Joyner Fine Art, May 13, 1994, lot 101
Private Collection, Toronto

David Milne: The Toronto Year, 1939 - 1940, Marlborough-Godard, 1976, page 11, reproduced page 29
David Milne Jr. and David P. Silcox, David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume 2: 1929 - 1953, 1998, reproduced page 713, catalogue #401.57

Marlborough-Godard, Toronto, David Milne: The Toronto Year, 1939 - 1940, January 1976, catalogue #30

In the summer of 1938, while working at Six Mile Lake, in Ontario’s cottage country, David Milne met and fell in love with Kathleen Pavey. This led to his decision to move in the summer of 1939 to Toronto, where he lived with Pavey from 1939 to 1940. The relationship was an enormous and happy change in Milne’s life, and the paintings he produced in Toronto, like Tablecloth, reflect the happiness of the couple. The subject of Tablecloth is straightforward: a still life of a floral tablecloth atop a table laden with toy animals (chicks and rabbits), a bowl, two pieces of paper and a book. These were decorations for Easter Sunday 1940. The lower portion of the image is defined by deep black shadows, which project the tabletop towards the viewer’s space.

The confidence Milne had in his technique is evident in the bravura with which the painting was executed; there was no room for error and Milne makes none. Like most of the Toronto pictures, Tablecloth employs a variation of what Milne’s dealer Douglas Duncan called the “hellish colour”—a combination of yellow ochre and permanent violet pigments. This colour (or a variation thereof) was used, as in Tablecloth, to unify the composition. The calligraphically painted tablecloth is a foil for the elements of the still life. The balance across the tabletop contrasts the relative visual calm of the book, bowl and blank pieces of paper in the upper left with the dense assembly of toys in the lower right. This vibrant work speaks of Milne’s joy in his new domesticity.

Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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