Edwin Headley Holgate
AAM BHG CGP CSGA G7 RCA
1892 - 1977
Lake Reflections, Mt. Tremblant
oil on canvas
24 x 24 in 61 x 61 cm
Estimate: $300,000 - $400,000
Preview at: Heffel Vancouver
Acquired directly from the Artist
Sold sale of Canadian Art, Joyner Fine Art Inc., December 7, 1999, lot 38, reproduced cover lot
Charles C. Hill, The Group of Seven: Art for a Nation, National Gallery of Canada, 1995, page 332, quoting Henri Girard’s article “Suzor Coté, l’exemple” in La Revue Moderne, Volume XI, No. 3, January 1930, pages 5 and 55
Rosalind Pepall and Brian Foss, Edwin Holgate, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2005, reproduced page 160 and listed page 174
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Edwin Holgate, 2005, catalogue #127
Edwin Holgate had been exposed to Cubism and other avant-garde styles of European painting when he was in France on two extended trips from 1912 to 1914 and 1916 to 1918. He had also lived under the exotic light and vividly coloured surroundings of Jamaica as a child and on trips there in 1920 and 1929. These international influences would show in his work throughout his life, and his figures and landscapes, especially this masterful, riotous view of the tangled forest on the shores of Lac Tremblant, often seem exotic when compared to other Canadian art created at the same time.
Holgate was very keenly interested in Modernism, and as a master woodblock printmaker, had the ability to look at his subjects in terms of their various divisible parts. His planes of space are often flattened, divided, shaped and defined in a print-like manner that further heightens the feeling of modernism. Lake Reflections, Mt. Tremblant fully exemplifies this. In this large, square format work, Holgate’s bold colours are applied directly and are often unblended. In the lake, the trees and their foliage, his pigments are vivid and clear. There are lyrical lines throughout the work; in the starkly white branches of the bush that lead into its slimmer, red-brown new growth, the brilliant green branches of the sapling and the distant white trunks of more mature trees across the lake - all seem to dance in the sunlight. The two shadows that we see on the near-ground rocks are more subtle, and remain still as the dance goes on around them, as do the pale shadows in the crooks of the white shrub’s branches. The softly-hued colours of the autumn foliage in the distance provide a fine foil to all these dancing lines.
Holgate had built himself a painting cabin in a remote location on the shore of Lac Tremblant in 1925, and through his repeated scrutiny of the area he had clearly come to know the landscape there in the intimate manner of a resident. Here, his use of unblended colour serves to reinforce the effect of bright sunlight that saturates the work. The twining, vine-like movement of the tree trunks and branches is almost electric. The dappled patterns and reflections in the shimmering waters of the lake convey the palpable feeling of a day when the heat of autumn creates visual mirages and waves that one can almost touch. Looking at this arresting work, we might feel we can hear the insects buzzing. Holgate was in the advantageous position of teaching at both the École des beaux-arts and the Art Association of Montreal. This placed him in contact with a younger generation of artists, writers and critics. He is well-known for his bold and sculptural portraits, and his association with the Beaver Hall Group afforded him the company of some of the most interesting portrait painters working in Canada at the time, connecting him to the forefront of the arts in Quebec. His work has, in many instances, and certainly in the latter part of his career, more in common with the new modernists than his associates from the Group.
Holgate had enlisted and served in both World Wars and was an official war artist with the Royal Canadian Air Force in Canada and England in 1943 and 1944. When he returned to Canada at the end of World War II, he craved a rural setting, and the appealing sketching potential that open landscapes and rural people provided. In 1946 he moved to Morin Heights in the Laurentians north of Montreal, and sketched and painted the surrounding country, using many of its inhabitants as subjects for his portraits.
Early in Holgate’s career, his bold modernism was noted by his art critics. Henri Girard stated, “An Edwin Holgate canvas presents the artist directly; this is a man who ignores half-tones and paraphrases. He states his case straightforwardly and too bad for you if your sensibility differs from his…..This is a beautiful, and so rare quality among our painters.” As a groundbreaking modernist, master printer, muralist and gifted and admired teacher, Holgate’s legacy to modernism in Canadian art is unique and distinct.
Estimate: $300,000 - $400,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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