Edwin Headley Holgate
AAM BHG CGP CSGA G7 RCA
1892 - 1977
Great Bug Pond, Cache River
oil on canvas
signed and on verso signed, titled, dated 1939, inscribed with the Dominion Gallery inventory #G2388 and stamped Kastel Gallery
26 x 30 in 66 x 76.2 cm
Estimate: $600,000 - $800,000
Preview at: Heffel Vancouver
Dominion Gallery, Montreal
The Estate of Susan M. Tenzer, Montreal
Kastel Gallery, Montreal
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, November 9, 1995, lot 79
Private Collection, Bermuda
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, November 18, 1999, lot 100
"Variety Features Show of Paintings by Edwin Holgate", The Standard, Montreal, October 19, 1946 (review of the Dominion Gallery exhibition)
François~Marc Gagnon, "Simplicité, Complexité, ou Holgate et Lismer", La Presse, Montreal, October 19, 1946 (review of the Dominion Gallery exhibition)
Dennis Reid, The Group of Seven, 1970, pages 12, 191 and 192
Rosalind Pepall and Brian Foss, Edwin Holgate, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2005, reproduced page 148 and listed page 173
Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, May 26, 2010, the circa 1938 - 1939 oil sketch entitled Frog Pond (Great Bug Pond, Cachée River) reproduced page 39
Dominion Gallery, Montreal, Edwin Holgate, Twenty-five Years of Painting, October 18 - November 2, 1946
Governor General Suite, APEC, Vancouver, 1997, label on verso
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Edwin Holgate, 2005, catalogue #97
In 1929, Edwin Holgate became the eighth member of the Group of Seven. Frank Johnston had already been replaced by A.J. Casson, thus Holgate was in fact the Group’s ninth painter. He had exhibited with the Group before the formal invitation to join had been issued, already being an artist of note. With the addition of Holgate, the Group made a clear statement about their intention for growth and development. Casson, with his interest and skill in watercolour, had taken the Group in a new direction. Holgate, at the time a respected teacher at the École des beaux-arts and a master wood engraver, was well known for his sensitive portraits and sculptural nudes, and had strong connections in Montreal. He later taught at the Art Association of Montreal, where Paul-Émile Borduas and John Paul Lemieux took his classes. He was superbly trained himself under the Art Association’s William Brymner, and well traveled. He added yet another dimension to the Group’s focus on landscape.
Holgate had the added distinction of having accompanied A.Y. Jackson and Marius Barbeau to the Skeena River area of British Columbia in 1926, where Jackson and Holgate’s famous paintings of the vanishing totem poles were done. Holgate had also been included in the British Empire Exhibitions at Wembley and was a member of the modernist Beaver Hall Group. Having studied in Paris twice, he came to know and greatly admired the work of Paul Cézanne. It was Cézanne’s attention to mass and solidity that interested Holgate in particular, and he would employ similar techniques in his own increasingly dramatic works, placing his nudes in what were quite obviously Canadian settings where the solid rocks of Ontario’s lake country formed rolling, sculptural backgrounds for his carefully modeled figures. Holgate was so keenly interested in landscape that he built a cabin on Lac Tremblant in the Laurentians in 1925 from which he was able to access varied sketching grounds nearby and enjoy the sport of skiing, at which he excelled.
In 1939, the same year that Great Bug Pond, Cache River was painted, Holgate showed his masterpiece The Bathers at the New York City World’s Fair, and the National Gallery of Canada acquired his important canvas Totem Poles of the Gitsegiuklas, done on the Skeena trip. Great Bug Pond, Cache River is a large, magnificent canvas painted during this important year, thus is a rare masterpiece from a peak time in Holgate’s life. It is an excellent example of Holgate’s ability to infuse his landscapes with the same sense of unique character that he gave each of his figures. Through clarity of form, balance of colour and carefully controlled lighting, Holgate frames the scene in a dramatic manner that grabs our attention and takes hold of it for substantially more than a few moments. “Look at me,” this landscape cries, “notice the shape of my trees, the way the light turns everything golden.” The glassy, slick surface of the water and the conical, repeating forms of trees are indeed beautifully rendered and visually arresting. Fluid lines demarcate the edges of the reedy sections of the pond from the inky water, and a distant, lighter band of fire-swept or wind-blown trunks echoes the colour and form of the two living trunks that we can just see, shining in the sun as it highlights their lines in the lower half of the work. From our vantage point beneath the decorative tree on a hilltop, we look out onto a masterfully painted scene, one of Holgate’s absolute best.
Estimate: $600,000 - $800,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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