LOT 027

1913 - 2007

Above the East Coast (The Farewell)
oil on canvas
signed, dated 1951 and inscribed "Copy from Sat. Eve. Post" and on verso signed, titled The Farewell on the gallery label, dated and inscribed "From the Saturday Evening Post illustration" and with the Dominion Gallery inventory #A6560 on the gallery label and variously
21 x 26 1/2 in, 53.3 x 67.3 cm

Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000 CAD

Sold for: $133,250

Preview at:

Alex MacLean, uncle of the Artist, Nanaimo
Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Canadian Art from the Estate of Dr. Max Stern, Ritchie's Auctioneers, June 5, 2002, lot 63
Jacques and Margaret Barbeau, Vancouver
Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, May 23, 2007, lot 113
Private Collection
Private Collection, Vancouver Island

Jacques Barbeau, A Journey with E.J. Hughes: One Collector's Odyssey, 2005, reproduced page 108
Jacques Barbeau, The E. J. Hughes Album, Volume 1, The Paintings, 1932 – 1991, 2011, reproduced page 13 and listed page 91, catalogue #35

Above the East Coast (The Farewell) is a rare work in E.J. Hughes’s oeuvre. It was painted at the request of his uncle, Alex MacLean, who had financed Hughes's art school studies, as a replica of the cover of a 1951 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. In a letter to Max Stern at the Dominion Gallery early in 1974, Hughes wrote, “The subject is a view, looking down, of a square rigged ship, with a back view of a man in the foreground, looking down on the ship from a cliff top.”[1]

The figure is more dramatic than any Hughes had ever put in a painting. The sailing ship, seen in a bird’s-eye view far below, surges ahead under the power of no less than 16 sails, while seagulls glide in a rhythmic array above the vigorously painted waves. The perfectly controlled lines of the rigging on the ship must have presented a singular challenge to the artist. While the scene is outside of Hughes’s signature subject matter, his talent as a painter and draughtsman is prominent in this work, with the exquisitely rendered light across the waves, finely detailed ship and brilliant colour. The direct and generous paint application is characteristic of his work from this important 1950s era, and the dramatic palette of black, white and intense blue connects the piece to his early, iconic works of the period. The artist’s great care in the painterly details is evident in the finished work.

Jacques and Margaret Barbeau, the artist’s devoted patrons and astute collectors, purchased the painting in June 2002 and, in a letter to them, Hughes’s assistant, Pat Salmon, explained how the painting came about:

Ed lived in North Vancouver with his grandfather and uncles who put him through art school. The three maternal uncles were Johnny, Alec [sic] and Murdoch MacLean. They all served in WWI, and Alex won a medal for bravery in battle… It was Alec who was living in Nanaimo with Johnny and his Aunt Mamie, who [in 1951] sent Ed the copy of The Saturday Evening Post and requested Ed to do an oil for him. Ed didn’t mind at all because they had supported him through his Vancouver Art School days.[2]

Hughes always called the painting Above the East Coast. When it was dispatched to Montreal on June 16, 1976, Stern gave it the new title The Farewell.[3]

We thank Robert Amos, artist and writer from Victoria, BC, for contributing the above essay. Amos is the official biographer of Hughes and has so far published five books on his work. Building on the archives of Hughes’s friend Pat Salmon, Amos is at work on a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work.

Included with this lot is a copy of a letter from Pat Salmon to Jacques and Margaret Barbeau, regarding Hughes's maternal uncles.

1. E.J. Hughes to Max Stern, February 8, 1974, correspondence available at Special Collections, University of Victoria.

2. Pat Salmon to Jacques and Margaret Barbeau, June 2002.

3. Max Stern to E. J. Hughes, June 16, 1976.

Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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