LOT 123

1882 - 1953

Pool in Snow
oil on canvas
signed and dated March 1935 and on verso titled and inscribed "35B" and "91"
12 x 16 in, 30.5 x 40.6 cm

Available for post auction sale. CAD
PRICE: $31,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Sale of the Artist to Vincent Massey, Toronto, 1935
Laing Galleries, Toronto
Acquired from the above by a Private Collection, Toronto, April 9, 1958
By descent to the present Private Collection, Toronto

David Milne Jr. and David P. Silcox, David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume 2: 1929 - 1953, 1998, titled as Pool in the Snow, reproduced page 597, catalogue #304.9

David Milne’s keen eye was always finding aesthetically significant forms, whether inside his cabin or, as he preferred, in nearby environs. Outside more often in March of 1935, he composed the challenging Pool in Snow from just a few elements: lingering snow, a reflective surface, a few bare trees, and what looks like a sled of some sort (likely used by Milne to transport supplies to and from this remote cabin). There is much more colour in this canvas than we might at first notice. The middle tree shows hints of spring green. The one on the left catches a bright blue reflection from the pool. The wooden sled almost glows orange, illuminating and animating the snow in which it stands.

At first glance, the scene depicted in this oil painting may appear to be ordinary or mundane, but upon closer examination, the relationship between the various forms in the frame becomes dynamic and rewarding to unravel. In a letter to his patrons Vincent and Alice Massey, Milne explained his aesthetic approach, stating: “The painter gets an impression from some phase of nature. He doesn’t try to reproduce the thing before him: he simplifies and eliminates until he knows exactly what stirred him, sets this down in colour and line as simply, and so as powerfully as possible, and so translates his impression into an aesthetic emotion.”[1] Here Milne employs the art theory of the British writer Clive Bell, who in his book Art (1914) explained the importance of “aesthetic emotion”:

The recognition of a correspondence between the forms of a work of art and the familiar forms of life cannot possibly provoke aesthetic emotion. Only significant form can do that. Of course realistic forms may be aesthetically significant, and out of them an artist may create a superb work of art, but it is with their aesthetic and not with their cognitive value that we shall then be concerned. We shall treat them as though they were not representative of anything.[2]

Keeping this theory in mind can help to deepen the appreciation of works such as Pool in Snow, and especially Window at Night (lot 122 in this sale).

We thank Mark A. Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto, for contributing the above essay. Cheetham has written extensively on Canadian art and artists—including Jack Chambers, Alex Colville, Robert Houle and Camille Turner—and was most recently a contributor to the 2022 book Unsettling Canadian Art History.

Pool in Snow has been in the same family since it was acquired from Laing Galleries in 1958.

1. Milne to the Masseys, August 1934, cited in Katharine Lochnan, “Reflections on Turner, Whistler, Monet, and Milne,” David Milne Watercolours: “Painting Toward the Light,” ed. Katharine Lochnan (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, in assoc. with Douglas & McIntyre, 2005), exhibition catalogue, 119.

2. Clive Bell, Art (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1914), 43.

Available for post auction sale. CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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