1871 - 1945
House on the Hill
oil on board, circa 1911
signed and on verso titled on the Dominion Gallery label with the original 1448 Ste. Catherine St. W. address, inscribed with the Dominion Gallery inventory #A184 and stamped Dominion Gallery, 1448 Ste. Catherine St. W., Telephone Harbour 7471
10 1/2 x 13 3/4 in 26.7 x 34.9 cm
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
Sold for: $145,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Acquired by Senator Norman Lambert in Ottawa from the Dominion Gallery in March 1947 in trade for two paintings, by J.E.H. MacDonald and André Biéler
By descent to a Private Collection, Ontario
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, May 23, 2007, lot 147
Private Collection, Calgary
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary
Private Collection, Vancouver
Emily Carr, "Fresh Seeing," address, 1930, page 13
Emily Carr, Growing Pains: The Autobiography of Emily Carr, 1946, pages 289 and 293
Doris Shadbolt, The Art of Emily Carr, 1979, page 36
Emily Carr traveled to France in 1910 to learn about the new modernist methods in painting, which she thought would help her better express the power and spiritual energy of the First Nations totems that had become her artistic focus. What she experienced in France caused a profound transformation in her art. After arriving there she met, through a letter of introduction, the well-connected English artist Henry Phelan Gibb, who was living and working in Paris. On their first meeting she was struck by his modern painting style. She later stated: “I stood by the side of Harry Gibb, staring in amazement up at his walls. Some of his pictures rejoiced, some shocked me. There was rich, delicious juiciness in his colour, interplay between warm and cool tones. He intensified vividness by the use of complementary colour.”
Quickly tiring of the urban congestion she found in Paris, Carr followed Gibb into the French countryside to study with him and to paint en plein air. Gibb taught her to use the Fauvist palette of brilliant primary and complementary colours to translate her direct impressions of what she experienced. This was the beginning of her “fresh seeing” through the new modern art that emphasized, in her words, “its feelings, its colour, its depth, its smell, its sounds and silences bound together into one great thing...” Doris Shadbolt wrote: “For the first time she understood the distinction between what the eye sees out there ‘in nature’ and the different kind of meaning shapes take on when translated to a flat picture plane. She began to use a palette of light and broken colour, employing contrasts in hue rather than tone; she also began a direct and often vigorous use of the brush, displaying a feeling for the substance of pigment.”
When Carr left France in the fall of 1911, Gibb encouraged her to continue her art and told her she would be one of the great woman painters of her day. With his assistance, two of her works were accepted to the prestigious 1911 Paris Salon d’Automne exhibition, where they were hung among works by French masters such as Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Kees van Dongen and Édouard Vuillard.
House on the Hill is a fine example of Carr’s time sketching under the direction of Gibb in the countryside of Brittany. From her autobiography we know that Carr felt a special love for the beauty of the French landscape and for the people who worked the land. She wrote: “Each village consisted of one street of stone cottages, whitewashed. A delicate trail of grape-vine was trained above every cottage door, its main stem twisted, brown and thick as a man’s arm, its greenery well tended and delicately lovely.” This work is also a fine example of the Fauvist approach of applying strong primary colours with prominent and deliberately bold brush-strokes.
The scene is a riot of colour, from the canopy of trees painted in vigorous reds, blues and greens to the traditional Brittany stone cottage walls that dazzle with bright yellow and are warmed by touches of well-placed pink. The foliage in the scene is alive with movement as it rises up and engulfs the cottages. The viewer is led up to the crest of the hill and into a lively sky filled with multicoloured clouds. This composition is unlike anything Carr had done prior to her trip to France. Her new skills would allow her to return with a renewed vigour to Canada, where she would apply her Fauvist training to her Canadian subjects.
There are striking similarities between this composition and Carr’s iconic Le paysage, which was shown at the Paris Salon d’Automne of 1911 and recently acquired by the Audain Art Museum. It is very possible the two compositions were done from different perspectives while Carr was sketching at the same location. House on the Hill has been selected for inclusion in the Audain Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition Emily Carr in France, scheduled for May 11 to September 2, 2019, and curated by Darrin Martens, the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chief Curator there. This masterful work is a prime example of Carr’s important sojourn in France, which dramatically altered the course of her work.
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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