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LOT 117

Franklin Carmichael
1890 - 1945

Winter, Matawa
watercolour and graphite on paper
signed and dated 1935 and on verso signed, titled and inscribed "21 Cameron Ave., Lansing, Ont." / "$175.00" on the Canadian National Exhibition label
20 1/4 x 27 1/8 in 51.4 x 68.9 cm

Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000

Sold for: $105,300

Preview at: Heffel Vancouver

Miss Marian Wood, Toronto, formerly Principal of Havergal College in Toronto (there is a portrait of Miss Wood by Charles MacGregor at Havergal College – MacGregor served on the Committee of the Ontario Society of Artists in the 1930s when Franklin Carmichael was president)
Harry Hughes, Montreal
By descent to a Private Collection, England
Private Collection, Vancouver

Paul Duval, A.J. Casson, Roberts Gallery, 1975, page 67

Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, 1935

Franklin Carmichael’s work in watercolour was as important as his work in oil. His experiments in this medium began as early as 1905, and he refined his techniques during his studies in 1913 at the Académie royale des beaux-arts in Antwerp, Belgium. Carmichael was aware of the accomplishments of eighteenth and nineteenth century English artists working in watercolour, and particularly admired the work of J.M.W. Turner. Later, while experimenting with techniques, he was especially interested in the work of American-born and French-trained Jules Guérin with his rich, luminous colour tints.
From 1914 to 1924 Carmichael worked primarily in oil, and his return to watercolour in 1924 was in a mature style showing a mastery of composition and fluidity of treatment. During an autumn sketching trip in this year to the Ottawa River Valley near Mattawa, Carmichael employed watercolour exclusively as his sketching medium. Through his work as a commercial artist with Rous & Mann Ltd. and his involvement in the Arts and Letters Club, Carmichael came into contact with the future members of the Group of Seven. During a 1925 trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior with Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson and A.J. Casson, Carmichael began a remarkable series of watercolours which expressed the grandeur and space of this vast country. He had a fine eye for elegant compositions, and removed unnecessary details to emphasize that which was truly important. Through this medium, Carmichael found he could be sharp or delicate, forceful or subtle, responsive to the mood of the landscape. He began the practice of painting small watercolour sketches en plein air, and then working these up into larger watercolours in the studio, such as this fine work. The larger studio watercolours are fewer in number and tend to be more highly finished. It is interesting to note that Carmichael would often use a preliminary drawing for watercolours as well as for oils.
Not content with just developing his own work, Carmichael was concerned that the use of watercolour was waning in Canada by the 1920s, and together with fellow Group of Seven member A.J. Casson set out to revive its importance. He founded the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour in 1925 with Casson and F.H. Brigden to encourage the use of watercolour and to hold exhibitions. After a 1928 trip to Lake Superior with Casson, both artists lobbied to have a special room devoted to their watercolours in the Group of Seven show of 1930. Although the idea was at first coolly received, they were later supported by the positive reaction to the show, and, as Duval writes, it “proved a resounding vindication of the power and eloquence of watercolour and its capacity to interpret the Canadian landscape in a monumental vein.”
Characteristic of Carmichael’s 1930s watercolours are the use of a panoramic view and a translucence of paint, both seen in this fine, large watercolour. A consummate designer and craftsman, Carmichael had a refined sense of the patterns in the land – in this case, both cultivated and wild. Carmichael pulls the viewer’s eye from the rural dwellings settled into the rolling fields up into the drama of the peaks of the hills beyond, unifying the scene with a dusting of winter snow. Light and space were of prime interest to him, and here he depicts the subtlety of a clear, even winter light. Carmichael sought not just to record the landscape literally, but to filter it through his thoughts, emotions and techniques, to carefully consider all the parts of the whole. His work in watercolour was superb, and he definitively proved the ability of this beautiful medium to capture the power of the Canadian landscape in all its moods.

Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business.