LOT 017

1913 - 2007

An Old Boathouse on Crofton Beach
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1968 and on verso signed, titled, dated, inscribed "30 Dec 67 P grey" / "30 Dec 67 p grey of lead" (crossed out) / "12 Jan 68 p grey" and with the Dominion Gallery inventory #C4 and stamped Dominion Gallery
25 x 32 in, 63.5 x 81.3 cm

Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000 CAD

Sold for: $289,250

Preview at:

Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Private Collection, Montreal
Private Collection, Vancouver
Sold sale of Post-War & Contemporary Art, July 15, 2020, lot 17
Private Collection, Vancouver

Jacques Barbeau, The E.J. Hughes Album: The Paintings, Volume 1, 1932 – 1991, 2011, reproduced page 50, the 1947 canvas Abandoned Village, Rivers Inlet, collection of the Alma Mater Society, University of British Columbia, reproduced page 9

E.J. Hughes has long been regarded as one of British Columbia’s most significant painters. His highly personal vision of the BC landscape has helped to form our perceptions of the province. Hughes trained at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (now Emily Carr University of Art + Design) from 1932 to 1939, which gave him a solid background in technique and allowed him to establish his professional career as a muralist and printmaker. The advent of World War II took him to another stage in his artistic development when he served as an official war artist. He closely observed his subjects and created highly worked preparatory graphite drawings, which he called cartoons. In these cartoons, Hughes explored the use of tonal values, working in shades of grey ranging from whitish to quite dark. The cartoons often became the basis for paintings, although they were considered finished works in themselves.

In 1946, Hughes returned from the war to Victoria, and the discoveries he had made during the war changed his work. In 1951, he moved to Shawnigan Lake, on Vancouver Island, and was discovered by Dr. Max Stern of Montreal’s Dominion Gallery, the beginning of a lifelong artist-dealer relationship. Hughes traveled throughout British Columbia during the 1950s and 1960s – he went up the coast on the ship the Imperial Nanaimo for paintings commissioned by the Standard Oil publication, The Lamp. A sketching trip to the interior of BC happened in 1956, then Canada Council fellowships in 1958 and 1963 took him around the province sketching. Hughes’s travels in his home province were instrumental in deepening his love of the British Columbia landscape.

Meanwhile, he was also foraying close to home – Crofton, Maple Bay, Bird’s Eye Cove, Saltair and Cherry Cove were locales on the seashore that often figured in his work. There he saw small marinas, docks, ferries, and a mix of light industrial and natural activities that were the essence of life on the east coast of southern Vancouver Island. Hughes portrayed it as an idyllic world where man lived in harmony with nature. Crofton, the subject of this beautiful 1960s work, was one of his favourites. The ferry here, an iconic image for Hughes, is seen in the background at the dock heading to Salt Spring Island.

Hughes’s work of the 1960s is considered highly desirable for its intensity of vision, and An Old Boathouse on Crofton Beach is a fine example of that. Colours are heightened – from the brilliant yellow and peridot logs in the foreground to the green moss, electric-blue water and dark evergreens backing the scene, all are high-keyed. The radiant sky behind, greenish at the bottom and blue above, is a colour unique to British Columbia. And note the detailing – what great Hughes painting does not have it? – such as in the barnacle-covered rocks and the supports propping up the boathouse or the bathers on the shore and the knotted driftwood by the boathouse. On verso, Hughes notes his use of grey, which one would assume refers to the boathouse. In the canvas Abandoned Village, Rivers Inlet, 1947 (collection of the Alma Mater Society, University of British Columbia), Hughes uses a grey scale approach to the houses along the shore, similar to his cartoons, which reinforces their desertion. The grey boathouse here, with its eerie weathered, slightly gold roof, does the same. Hughes renders all the forms in a highly defined way, with attention to tonal values – light against dark. Everything seems almost carved in its precision of form.

Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.