Edwin Headley Holgate
AAM BHG CGP CSGA G7 RCA
1892 - 1977
Canadian Minesweeper, East Coast
oil on canvas board
initialed and dated 1941 and on verso signed, titled, dated and inscribed with the Dominion Gallery inventory #A2390
18 x 19 in 45.7 x 48.3 cm
Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000
Preview at: Heffel Vancouver
Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Montreal
Masters Gallery, Calgary
Rosalind Pepall and Brian Foss, Edwin Holgate, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2005, reproduced page 156 and listed page 173
Pierre Théberge, “Come Discover the Eighth Member of the Group of Seven, Edwin Holgate”, National Gallery of Canada Press Release, 2006
The Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Art Museum, label on verso
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Edwin Holgate, 2005, catalogue #101
Pierre Théberge stated, “Edwin Holgate was a Montreal artist and a great Canadian painter, attached to Québec’s rural culture yet open to the world. Portraits, landscapes and scenes of daily life are depicted with mastery but, above all, Holgate’s sensibility and expressiveness went beyond mere representation and questioned the human relationship to nature…..Holgate’s work shows us an artist of talent, captivated by everything around him, but especially by the human dimension of things.”
During World War I, Holgate enlisted and served in France and Canada with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces from 1916 to 1919. His work Over the Top from 1918, now in the Beaverbrook Collection of War Art at the Canadian War Museum, is a masterpiece that showed Holgate’s sensitivity to the difficult nature of his subject. In it, we see three soldiers exiting a trench at night in silhouette, guided by the faint light of a starry sky. It is a tense and rather frightening scene, extremely evocative of the danger the men faced. In the years between the wars, Holgate established himself in Montreal. He traveled back to Europe to study, then on return to Canada taught at the Art Association of Montreal and became a member of the Group of Seven. He established himself as a fine figurative painter, exploring modernism in his nudes and portraits of ‘Canadian types’, and sketched the landscape of Canada, in particular that of Quebec. He painted at Skeena with A.Y. Jackson, and executed murals for the Jasper Room at the Château Laurier in Ottawa as well as for the Canadian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.
When World War II broke out, Holgate enlisted again, this time as an official war artist. He did not see action, serving instead with the Canadian Air Force at the shipyards in Sorel, Quebec (now Sorel-Tracy). There, Holgate painted the activities of this busy shipbuilding dock, which also served as a major wartime armament port. Among the men he would have met were the sailors who served aboard the minesweepers. He has captured all the tension and danger of their duty in this dramatic scene from 1941. Canadian Minesweeper, East Coast is a dynamic and energy-filled work. Holgate has painted the scene from a vantage point that creates a strong feeling of tension. We are looking down onto the deck of the ship, watching four men who are intent on their duties. The boat is clearly caught in high seas, and the expanse of water beyond the safety of the deck churns and boils. The angle of the deck, the frothing water and our lofty vantage point all contribute to a feeling of charged tension – Holgate has caught the action at a high point indeed. An interesting similarity of brushwork can be seen between the brush-strokes on the hull of the ship and the way Holgate has handled the water with repeating circular stokes. Despite the tension of the scene, its treatment is quite decorative. The ship’s rigging, running in thin lines across and through the foaming spray, is dynamic and precise. Holgate was a master of sculpting his forms, and the shapes and planes of the minesweeper would have presented an opportunity for him to exploit his colour-modeling skills. The grey of the ship is uniform, but Holgate has given it interest in his subtle shading, and treated this unyielding, bulky feature with delicate and careful brushwork. The visual contrast of the ship’s brute form against the energy of the wildly churning sea is masterful. However, it is in the angle at which Holgate has depicted the deck of the ship where he fully arrests our attention. The strong lean to the left makes us feel a part of the scene, as if we are on the ship with Holgate, trying to keep our balance as the men comb the water for mines.
Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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