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LOT 144

Alexander Young (A.Y.) Jackson
1882 - 1974

Mining Camp, Contact Lake, NWT
oil on canvas, circa 1958
signed and on verso titled
20 x 25 in 50.8 x 63.5 cm

Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000

Sold for: $73,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Samuel Borenstein, Montreal
R. Fraser Elliott, Toronto
Sold sale of Important Canadian Art, Sotheby's Canada in association with Ritchie's, November 21, 2005, lot 108
Property from an Important Private Collection to Benefit a Charitable Foundation

Naomi Jackson Groves, A.Y.’s Canada, 1968, page 208
Pierre B. Landry, editor, Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Art, Volume 2 / G-K, National Gallery of Canada, 1994, the 1938 graphite drawing Contact Lake, Near Great Bear Lake reproduced page 258, catalogue #17782r

In August of 1938, A.Y. Jackson took his first long-distance flight to the North, to the Great Bear Lake region on the Eldorado Mine company plane, invited by prospector and mine owner Gilbert LaBine. About ten years earlier, LaBine had spotted cobalt bloom during a plane flight, and subsequently established Eldorado Mine, which extracted silver and uranium. Jackson became well known for his many explorations across Canada, from the painter’s trails up the St. Lawrence River in winter to the vast Barren Lands of the Northwest Territories (now Nunavut).

After viewing this open country dotted with innumerable lakes during his 1938 flight (they flew low enough to have a good view of the topography), Jackson landed at Port Radium, on the eastern end of Great Bear Lake. Naomi Jackson Groves recorded that Jackson wrote, “It was a grand trip…Saw five hundred thousand lakes this morning. You just couldn’t keep looking at them, hour after hour. Great Bear is surrounded by big rocky hills, open patches of spruce in places, but no farm land.” These lakes had been formed during the last retreat of the polar ice cap 10,000 years ago.

On this 1938 trip Jackson stayed for six weeks. He wandered over the rocky hills, dotted with patches of spruce and birch, interspersed with muskeg lakes, sketching the unique landscape. One of the places he visited was Contact Lake, the site of a silver and uranium mine and a small settlement. The mine was located in the Echo Bay region of Great Bear Lake, 15 kilometres southeast of LaBine Point (at Port Radium), on the north side of Contact Lake. A mill operated here from 1936 to 1938, then shut down until 1946. Jackson made graphite drawings here – including the drawing Contact Lake, Near Great Bear, in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, which was the study for this fine canvas. In a letter to collector R. Fraser Elliott, who once owned this work, Jackson’s niece Naomi Jackson Groves noted that Jackson made a canvas from this drawing and sold it to the Montreal artist Samuel Borenstein, and that the canvas was painted in the late 1950s or early 1960s, not at the time of the drawing.

In this engaging painting, Jackson captures the everyday life of the mining camp, showing men at leisure outside their cabins, sitting or conversing. Jackson was an amiable and social man, able to mix with all strata of society, whether artists, scientists, engineers or the miners, some of whom came from other countries, such as Finland. Jackson conveyed a keen grasp of atmosphere in this scene, which portrays quotidian details such as the washing hanging on the line. The lake appears at the end of the row of houses, suggesting the men had a fine view. Jackson used a rich palette of colour everywhere, whether in man-made objects such as the hot orange blanket on the line and the scattered orange, green and blue barrels on the ground, or in the natural landscape, such as the bright gold of fall trees and the azure sky slicing through the clouds. In the clouds and the mountains, Jackson includes many subtle pastel tints, from pink and plum to blue and green, reflecting his interest in Impressionism early in his career.

Jackson noted that by mid-September the trees were bare, but winter did not set in before he flew out early in October. During this first visit Jackson had felt the mystique of the North, and it drew him to return many times. He stated, “I guess I’m like a compass, always heading north. I really do belong to the caribou country.”

Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business.