ARCA CSPWC G7 OSA
1888 - 1949
The North Country
oil on board
signed and on verso signed and titled
22 x 29 3/4 po, 55.9 x 75.6 cm
Estimation : $15,000 - $20,000
Vendu pour : $73,250
Exposition à : Heffel Toronto – 13 avenue Hazelton
Acquired directly from the Artist by Hugh C. McRae, Toronto, circa 1947
By descent to the present Private Collection, Ontario
Donald Jones, “Group of Seven became Six when Frank Johnston Quit”, Toronto Star, September 10, 1983, page H8
This painting was acquired from the artist by Hugh C. McRae of Toronto, a successful mining industrialist, and it has remained in the family’s collection for over 70 years. Working in gold extraction, McRae may have been drawn to the idealistic depiction of a rugged northern landscape that he would have been familiar with. It is worth remembering that Johnston himself once apprenticed as a jewelry designer; indeed, Toronto Star columnist Donald Jones once wrote that “Johnston’s colours were so vivid and so accurate that it was said mineralogists could identify ore-bearing rocks in his paintings.”
Like many of Johnston’s best works, it is the artist’s emphatic use of lighting that elevates the scene. The scene depicts two men - prospectors, traders, hunters, or perhaps just travelers - navigating their canoe through whitewater rapids. The light suggests late afternoon or early morning, but the camp in the background - with the canvas tent and twist of smoke from a fire - suggests this is late in the day - the advancing shadow of dusk already complicating the mens’ work. The interplay between light and shadow and the realistic and the picturesque, as well as a careful attention to detail, come together to make this a stunning example of Johnston’s work.
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