LOT 103

1882 - 1974

St. Joachim, Quebec / Houses in Winter (verso)
double-sided oil on board
signed and on verso titled on a label and dated 1930 on the frame
8 1/2 x 10 1/2 in, 21.6 x 26.7 cm

Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000 CAD

Sold for: $37,250

Preview at:

Acquired directly from the Artist
By descent to the present Private Collection, Toronto

Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson: Paintings, 1902 – 1953, Art Gallery of Toronto and National Gallery of Canada, 1953, page 6
A.Y. Jackson, A Painter’s Country: The Autobiography of A.Y. Jackson, 1958, page 57
Naomi Jackson Groves, A.Y.’s Canada, 1968, page 66

“The stretch of eighty miles or so north-eastward from St. Joachim, either along the shoreline past Petite Rivière and Millard to Baie St. Paul, or up over the high plateau where St. Ferréol and St. Tite des Caps are located in County Montmorency with the magnificent Laurentians to the north, and eastward from there into County Charlevoix, encloses another favourite region for AY’s winter-spring sketching expeditions during the years from 1923 onward.”

— Naomi Jackson Groves, A.Y.’s Canada

A.Y. Jackson’s sketching trips up and down the “painting trails” on either side of the St. Lawrence River during his Group of Seven years are legendary. He is justifiably renowned for his depictions of Quebec villages and rural farms, which were both affectionate and insightful, as Jackson captured their unique look and atmosphere. Jackson loved the old barns, simple houses, and horse-drawn sleighs and sledges, and he mourned modernization when it happened. He knew the people who lived in this region intimately, as he stayed in small hotels and boarded in private houses on his painting trips, and he was a subject of curiosity from passersby when he was painting out of doors.

On one early trip to Cacouna, Jackson was painting with fellow artist Albert H. Robinson, and the pair were asked if they were spies (the war still being fresh in some people’s minds). Locals were perplexed by his choice of subjects; as Jackson related, “The villagers could not understand why we painted old houses and barns.” Over time, however, images such as these have become ever more precious to all of us as records of a traditional way of life, becoming part of our Canadian identity.

Jackson’s expert abilities with his oil sketches, done on the spot, were attested to by his fellow Group of Seven artist Arthur Lismer:

“Jackson is the most consummate sketcher I have ever known. These little panels, handy on the trail, could be handled as easily as an expert marksman uses a quiver full of arrows…There is something cosmic in his interpretation of the movement of earth and sky and weather forms in his paintings…Always it seems that he grasps the fundamental unity of spirit and technique.”

In this intact work, Jackson used both sides of his board support - when on sketching trips, sometimes he would run out of panels and, unwilling to abandon his painting, would then paint on the other side as well. St. Joachim, Quebec is a classic Quebec winter scene by Jackson. The horse and sledge carrying firewood is a much sought-after motif in Jackson’s work, and his sensitivity to rhythm in the scene shines—from the rutted road to the rounded piles of snow and the lean of the houses, everything settles into the contours of the land, and nothing conforms to the limitation of a straight line. The overcast day gives an overall even light and Jackson keeps his colour values close, based on a range of ochres and grays. However, Jackson includes a few bright colours to add vivacity to the image—the rich orange-red door, the gold in a door frame, and emerald green in the dormer window and roof edge in the nearest house. Over the houses farther down the street, distant mountains rise, reminding us of the surrounding landscape.

On the other side, Houses in Winter captures a scintillating winter day; it exhibits an interesting play of shadows across the snowbanks, cast by the profiles of the houses and the gaps in the snake fences. These shadows make the snow appear brighter, creating a stronger impression of sunlight. More awareness in the patterning of shape is exhibited in the vertical and horizontal patterns in both the houses, the ladder and the cross-form electrical pole.

St. Joachim, Quebec and Houses in Winter are a fine opportunity for a collector to possess two Group-period images imbued with Jackson’s deep feeling for the distinctive identity of Quebec’s rural life of this period.

Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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