David Brown Milne
CGP CSGA CSPWC
1882 - 1953
Snow in the Sugar Bush (Six Mile Lake, Muskoka, Ontario)
oil on canvas
signed and dated March 1935 and on verso titled and inscribed "M-106" on the Mellors gallery label and inscribed "26B" (circled in red) on the canvas
12 x 16 1/8 in 30.5 x 41 cm
Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000
Sold for: $43,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Sale of the Artist to Vincent Massey, Toronto, 1935
Mellors Galleries, Toronto, 1935
Professor W.J. McAndrew, Toronto, 1935
By descent to Miss E.H. McAndrew, Toronto
Peter Ohler Fine Arts Ltd., Vancouver
Private Collection, Vancouver
Donald W. Buchanan, Exhibition of Paintings by David B. Milne, Mellors Galleries, 1935, listed page 2
David Milne Jr. and David P. Silcox, David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume 2: 1929 - 1953, 1998, reproduced page 599, catalogue #304.13
Mellors Galleries, Toronto, Exhibition of Paintings by David B. Milne, November 1935, catalogue #10
James Wilson & Co., Ottawa, Exhibition of Pictures by David B. Milne, December 1935
David Milne moved for employment, for the appeal of landscapes in new locales, and because of his personal relationships. In 1930, he settled in Palgrave, north of Toronto, where he loved to paint in the Caledon Hills. But his separation from Patsy Milne in 1933 – plus her intention to stay in Palgrave rather than return to the United States – made him look elsewhere. He chose relatively remote Six Mile Lake, near Georgian Bay in the Muskoka area of Ontario. A skilled carpenter and perennially impecunious, he built a cabin and started painting. More happily on the personal front, it was here in 1938 that he met Kathleen Pavey. Milne seems to have rescued Pavey from a near mishap in her canoe. She was then 28. Milne moved from Six Mile Lake to Toronto in the summer of 1939 to live with Pavey.
The time frame and locale of Snow in the Sugar Bush is important in another way specific to Milne’s circumstances. As the provenance records, this was one of the paintings Milne sold to Vincent and Alice Massey, prominent Canadians and art collectors. Milne wrote in a letter from Palgrave that “the painter’s life is one continuous financial depression, and he gets used to it.” By the mid-1930s, he was nonetheless quite desperate, and suggested the purchase to the Masseys. He parted with approximately 300 paintings for five dollars each. With what we might call “seller’s remorse,” however, he subsequently believed that the sale was not properly negotiated.
Whereas Milne’s landscapes around Palgrave from the earlier 1930s show a cultivated region, Snow in the Sugar Bush is witness to the more rugged, though still “worked,” landscape near Six Mile Lake. The white snow heightens Milne’s exuberant record of dynamic colour in this forested space. Some tree trunks are blackened, suggesting a fire, while others are highlighted in red to underscore their new growth in the early spring. We see the work at first as apparently asymmetrical, but we also notice Milne’s use of intersecting diagonal lines in this composition. The prominent fallen trunk that points us deeper into the space, for example, lies atop many diagonal lines of snow and ground that he picks out in blues, whites and browns. Milne believed that landscapes held emotion and that it was his role to bring those qualities out. We readily feel his enthusiasm for this scene.
We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto and author of Remembering Postmodernism: Trends in Canadian Art, 1970–1990, for contributing the above essay.
1. James King, Inner Places: The Life of David Milne (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2015), 300.
2. Quoted in “David Milne: Palgrave” [video] (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, n.d.), https://www.ago.net/palgrave.
3. See Lora Senechal Carney, Canadian Painters in a Modern World, 1925-1955: Writings and Reconsiderations (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017), chap. 2, and David Silcox, Painting Place: The Life and Work of David B. Milne (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), chap. 12.
Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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