Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté
1869 - 1937
Young Girl in Landscape
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1913
81 1/2 x 54 in 207 x 137.1 cm
Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000
Sold for: $125,000
Preview at: Heffel Montreal
Joseph-Marcellin Wilson, Senator for Saurel, Quebec
By descent to Juliet Wilson Dawson, Scotland
By descent to Lucinda Dawson, Jersey
Private Collection, Jersey
Laurier Lacroix, Suzor-Coté, Light and Matter, Musée du Québec, pages 35, 148, 162 and 202
When we try to figure out the place of Young Girl in Landscape in Marc-Aurèle Suzor-Coté’s oeuvre, we are immediately confronted with a problem. There is no way to link this smiling girl – standing, looking at us; knitting for sure, but in an unexpected place (at the edge of a stand of birch trees giving onto an open landscape) – with the austere peasants painted a few years before and after the date of our painting. The women he painted then were old, sagging, worn out by a life of hard work. Knitting, in these previous works – I am thinking of the bronze sculpture The Wife of the Old Pioneer, 1918 – is not a dilettante affair that you can indulge while smiling in the woods. For the old lady it was an endless chore, having occupied her whole life, deforming her fingers, and was essential for survival in the cold winter of Quebec. The priest and historian Lionel-Adolphe Groulx wrote that these old ladies were knitting even while asleep!
The rendering style adopted in the case of the peasants (if we exclude the sculptures) was also very different from this. The old peasants were done mostly with pastel, and never adopted this pointillist treatment à la Giovanni Segantini that we see here, or in the famous Portrait of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, circa 1910, in the collection of the Musée Laurier, Arthabaska. Suzor-Coté reveals himself to be able not only to change his approach but also his style in favour of this new subject matter, which Laurier Lacroix, his best commentator, has defined as the the affirmation of the modern women. The peasants perpetuate a mode of life belonging to a venerable past, but the young woman’s freedom, her self-assurance, represents a new conquest and is an urban phenomenon.
This is why her presence in a landscape seems a little odd – it is because she knits out of doors for pleasure; and it is because she smiles at the painter (and at us) that her work cannot be the fundamental duty it was for her grandmother.
But was it not city dwellers who discover the pleasures of the country and develop a new rapport with the countryside? Tourism is an urban invention, and Suzor-Coté, who lived in Montreal and Paris, and died in Daytona Beach, Florida, was as much an urbanite as a citizen attached to his birthplace in Arthabaska. Our Young Girl in Landscape is then part of a group of portraits of young women who have – like Youth in the Sun, 1913, which obviously uses the same model as in our painting – a rapport with Claude Monet’s Woman with a Parasol, 1875, which represents Camille Monet and her son walking on the beach in the wind, sheltered by a parasol.
In the case of Suzor-Coté, we know the names of some of these young women: Jeanne Boissonneault, Jeanne Pichette, Mlle Bourassa, Madeleine Hope-Hanson, and his niece, Mariette Côté. They agreed to be painted by him, and amongst them, some were liberated enough to pose nude at times. His Symphonie pathétique, 1925, portrays one of these young ladies from the back in an improvised landscape, evidently transported by the music – hence the title of the work. Suzor-Coté then reveals himself not only as a regional painter commited to depicting the old peasantry who pioneered the country, but also as the poet of the fresh and vibrant young women of the new age. Our painting definitely belongs in the latter category.
We thank François-Marc Gagnon of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute of Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, for contributing the above essay.
Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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