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LOT 129

George Agnew Reid
1860 - 1947

The Visit of the Clockcleaner
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1892
30 1/4 x 46 1/4 in 76.8 x 117.5 cm

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000

Sold for: $157,250

Preview at:

Philip Jamieson, Toronto
E.T. Malone, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto

“The Study and Work of Mr. G.A. Reid,” The Lake Magazine, vol. 1, no. 7, February 1893, pages 427 - 428
Dominion of Canada Industrial Exhibition, Department of Fine Arts, Canadian National Exhibition, 1903, listed, unpaginated
Margaret L. Fairbairn, "The Art of George A. Reid," The Canadian Magazine, vol. 22, no. 1, November 1903, page 6
Muriel Miller Miner, G.A. Reid: Canadian Artist, Catalogue Raisonné, 1946, pages 65, 92 and 202
Christine Boyanski, Sympathetic Realism: George A. Reid and the Academic Tradition, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1985, pages 35 and 36
Claudia Mitchell and April Mandrona, Our Rural Selves: Memory and the Visual in Canadian Childhoods, 2019, reproduced page 22
Katerina Atanassova et al., Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons, National Gallery of Canada, 2019, reproduced page 87

Oliver Coate & Co., Toronto, George Reid Exhibition, December 1892, catalogue #150
Royal Canadian Academy, Montreal, February - March 1893, catalogue #121
World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, May 1 - October 30, 1893, catalogue #91
Canadian National Exhibition, Dominion of Canada Industrial Exhibition, Toronto, August 27 - September 12, 1903, titled as Visit of the Clockmaker, catalogue #113
Art Gallery of Toronto, A Loan Collection of Paintings Contributed by Private Collectors and Public Institutions in the City of Toronto, January 6 - February 8, 1920

In 1893, the submission of The Visit of the Clockcleaner crystallized George A. Reid’s reputation at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. This work, together with two other notable submissions, The Foreclosure of the Mortgage, 1893, and Lullaby, 1892, brought widespread acclaim from the public and critics alike. As one critic noted, “The artist has poetized in nearly every case the home life with its joys and sorrows, its little daily round.” In another review, a New York Times critic praised Reid’s technique: “The artist’s control of the light and utilizing of the figures to contribute to the general effect are masterly.”

The Clockcleaner is a memorial to Joseph Shuter, a flute player, amateur clock-cleaner and a distant cousin of Reid’s. Upon Shuter’s passing, he willed a grandfather clock to Reid, which inspired the subject of this painting. The clock is a British longcase clock that was no longer being produced in the late 1890s, as American-made mechanical clocks became popular. Thus the artisanal craftsman and this clock are a poignant link to the past. Muriel Miller Miner, a leading scholar on Reid, describes the story thus: “When this clock came to Reid, he visualized a picture in tribute to this characterful man who played such a colourful role in his early days on the farm. Thereupon, he began sketching ideas for is picture and hunted out a model as much like Shuter as possible. Remembering how the old man loved youngsters, Reid decided there must be children in the picture.” The children in this painting are Reid and three of his eight siblings. Children are often the focus of Reid’s canvases from this period, evoking a sense of nostalgia. These fleeting childhood moments were quintessentially Victorian, innocent and poetic. They aimed to capture domesticity and celebrate the routine of “home life.”

The Clockcleaner was recently cited in the National Gallery of Canada’s esteemed publication for the widely anticipated exhibition Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons. Currently at the Kunsthalle München, in Germany, until November 2019, the show will travel to the Fondation de l’Hermitage in Switzerland and Musée Fabre in France in 2020, then on to the National Gallery of Canada in the fall of 2020. These “new horizons” were the focus of several well-regarded artists of the day. Loren Lerner, in her catalogue essay, describes this significant shift: “In the city the places most loosely associated with middle-class children were the home and family garden, as well as the lake and riverside sites of summer vacations. These spaces offered protection, leisure and escape from the tumult of the city.”

Specifically relating to The Clockcleaner, Lerner notes, “Reid introduces only a few Impressionist aspects, such as the glow from the window reflected on the faces and clothing of the subjects.” This technique of light, though subtle, was certainly avant-garde for its time. As Miner affirms, artists like Reid “weren’t afraid to pick up something new if they found it satisfying,” particularly when it concerned the innovations of the Impressionists. Moreover, for Reid, working in a genre or “storytelling” manner immediately resonated with the public. They visualized themselves in these familial subjects, making Reid’s paintings increasingly fashionable.

Reid’s impressive accomplishments continued throughout his extensive career. He was an early member of the Royal Academy of Arts and later became principal of the Central Ontario School of Art and Design, now the prestigious Ontario College of Art and Design.

The Visit of the Clockcleaner, along with other canvases like it, helped to shape a Canadian nationalist identity that was still in its infancy. With an impeccable exhibition history and provenance, this masterful painting is a tribute to Reid’s understated brilliance as both an academic painter and an early interpreter of the Impressionist movement in Canada.

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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