Alfred Joseph (A.J.) Casson
CGP CSPWC G7 OC POSA PRCA
1898 - 1992
Farmhouse Near Wingle
oil on board, 1960
signed and on verso titled on the gallery label
24 x 40 in 61 x 101.6 cm
Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000
Sold for: $541,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Roberts Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
88th Annual Exhibition: The Ontario Society of Artists, 1960, Art Gallery of Toronto, listed page 5 and reproduced page 15
Margaret Gray, Margaret Rand and Lois Steen, A.J. Casson, Canadian Artists 1, 1976, reproduced page 45
Paul Duval, A.J. Casson, His Life & Works: A Tribute, 1980, reproduced, unpaginated
Ted Herriott, Sunday Morning with Cass: Conversations with A.J. Casson, 1993, page 16
Art Gallery of Toronto, 88th Annual Exhibition: The Ontario Society of Artists, March 26 - April 24, 1960, catalogue #9
Farmhouse Near Wingle not only represents an outstanding example of the mature artist at his best, but also embodies every element of the life experience, skilled workmanship and devotion to his subject for which A.J. Casson has been long celebrated.
In reviewing the history of Casson’s early years and his goal to make a career in visual art, it was startling to realize he was only a teenager when he set out to be a freelance graphic designer, and he was not quite 20 years old when he began his seven-year apprenticeship assisting Franklin Carmichael in the design department of Rous & Mann Ltd. in Toronto. This young man was very talented and also anxious to improve his craft. To that end, he had the good fortune to avail himself of evening classes taught by accomplished artists such as J.W. Beatty and Harry Britton, who introduced him to the medium of watercolour. Carmichael was also a formative influence, and his exacting standards for his younger assistant did not inhibit their growing friendship outside of working hours. Carmichael encouraged Casson to join him on his weekend sketching trips north of the city, launching Casson’s practice of weekend explorations of southern Ontario and beyond. Their mutual admiration was further confirmed when, following the departure of Frank Johnston, Carmichael invited Casson to become a member of the Group of Seven in 1926.
When asked about the sales of his paintings in the early years, Casson replied: “Well – we hardly sold anything…The O.S.A. had a little picture show every year…you’d perhaps sell one or two out of that.” He went on to say that he did not need the money, since he had a job and it was “just pure luck” if he sold anything. Some of that OSA luck included, among other works, the purchase by the National Gallery of Canada of his beautiful, large 1933 painting Anglican Church at Magnetawan. It was not until 1959 that Casson had his first solo exhibition, at Roberts Gallery in Toronto, which was the beginning of a long and very successful relationship between artist and dealer. The following year, Casson retired from his work as a graphic designer and was able to devote himself to painting full time. Farmhouse Near Wingle, from 1960, was from the period when his paintings were shown at the OSA annual show and then exhibited at his gallery in the same year.
Casson’s output of landscape images was prolific, and these works are among the best known of his generation. His studied attention to detail, his colour sense - particularly in his masterful handling of greens and teals - his fascination with rapidly changing weather phenomena, and his awareness of design elements set his images apart and make his distinctive style instantly recognizable. In Farmhouse Near Wingle, Casson’s use of spatial planes is an example of a modified Cubist style sometimes seen in his work. Another equally significant factor that sets his work apart from that of his peers in the Group - inspired by his early years growing up in Guelph, Ontario - was his desire to record the farms and villages of rural Ontario, places that he sensed might not be there in the future. For example, Wingle barely registers on the map about 35 kilometres from Barry’s Bay, south of Algonquin Park. Many of these paintings simply feature the shops and dwellings of these locales, but sometimes Casson sparks our imagination with the introduction of the human figure, as in this charming image of the lady of the house, who may possibly be returning from the farmyard with a basket of fresh eggs on her arm, hurrying to escape the thunderstorm threatening above. Casson was attracted to dramatic weather, and he was expert in capturing such exciting atmospheric effects.
Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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