LOT 138

1892 - 1977

Sanary, France
oil on board
initialed and on verso signed, titled "Sanary" and dated February 7, 1922
9 1/2 x 7 1/4 in, 24.1 x 18.4 cm

Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000 CAD

Sold for: $79,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Acquired directly from the Artist
Private Collection, Montreal
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, November 23, 2007, lot 49
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. William P. Wilder, Toronto

Dennis Reid, Edwin H. Holgate, National Gallery of Canada, 1976, page 9
Rosalind Pepall and Brian Foss, Edwin Holgate, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2005, pages 16 and 90, reproduced page 109, listed page 171

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Edwin Holgate, May 26 - October 2, 2005, traveling in 2006 - 2007 to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary; McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, catalogue #29

Edwin Holgate painted this evocative portrait of his wife, Frances, during the time they spent in France. The couple married in 1920 and lived in France from 1920 to 1922. They settled in Paris, where Frances taught piano lessons, while Holgate returned to formal study, this time at the Académie Colarossi under the Russian artist Adolph Milman. Holgate studied with Milman for over a year and later declared him to be “the only man who ever really taught me something” – about scale, the nude as a subject, and the depiction of people with a strong sense of modeling and hard, clear line. He further emphasized that Milman was “the most potent influence I had. I’ll respect him ’til I die.”

When Holgate arrived in Paris, many Russian émigré artists were living in the city, seeking to escape the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. There Holgate became acquainted with Russian artists of the Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) movement, who were known for their strong drawing and bold nudes. Two artists from this group were especially known for their portraiture – Alexandre Iacovleff and Vasily Shukhayev. Iacovleff was trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, and his portraits showed great expertise in the use of sanguine and charcoal in the depiction of figures. Holgate met Iacovleff, and his work was influenced by the Russian artist’s methods, particularly in Holgate’s sanguine and charcoal portraits of Breton peasants from 1921.

Milman was also a devotee of Paul Cézanne, who was a guiding light for many artists in the early 1920s. Holgate would have seen Cézanne’s work in Paris, where Cézanne had a show at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in December of 1920. From Cézanne, Holgate learned to strip away extraneous details to focus on formal considerations such as volume and the geometry of pure form. In Paris, Holgate’s training in draftsmanship, structured composition and the effects of colour formed the foundation of his strength in portraiture.

The Holgates gravitated towards the French countryside in the summers – Concarneau, in Brittany, and the Mediterranean. Sanary-sur-Mer is in the picturesque Côte d’Azur region, a peaceful seaside town centred on fishing. Following the First World War, it became one of the destinations in France for artists and writers such as Aldous Huxley, blossoming into a bohemian community.

Holgate’s wife, Frances, was frequently a sitter for his figurative work. Rosalind Pepall wrote that “in his portraits of female subjects…and especially his wife, the artist was able to express himself most freely and reach beyond form to a more subjective emotion.” Holgate referred to this portrait of Frances as his “Matisse,” and it is a composition reminiscent of numerous paintings by Henri Matisse of women in rooms in front of open windows with views of the Mediterranean Sea. One such example is the 1919 oil Femme assise sur un balcon, from Heffel’s spring 2019 sale. Holgate’s use of colour is strong, particularly in the saturated red and yellow of Frances’s clothing. She leans against the iron railing in a languid pose, her eyes turned downward as if in contemplation. The green tree behind her provides a contrasting tone, further emphasizing her form. Holgate echoes the decorative railing with its blue shadow on the floor and frames the composition by the placement of shutters on either side of the work. Then there is the cool, pale expanse of ocean and sky, rendered in beautifully modulated brushwork. The pigments here are reminiscent of Frederick Varley, with their soft variation of colour tones in blues and greens. Sanary, France is a superb scene and shows that by 1922, Holgate’s portraiture, which became such an important part of his oeuvre, was masterfully developed.

For the biography on Mr. and Mrs. William P. Wilder in PDF format please click here.

Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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