LOT 010

1913 - 2007

Above Revelstoke
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1963 and on verso signed, titled and titled Above Revelstoke, BC on the Dominion Gallery label, dated and inscribed with the Dominion Gallery inventory #A3442 and "CISS"
32 x 48 in 81.3 x 121.9 cm

Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Dominion Gallery, Montreal, 1963
Private Collection, Europe
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Montreal
Private Collection, Toronto

E.J. Hughes to Dr. Max Stern, September 9, 1958, Special Collections, University of Victoria Library
Dr. Max Stern to E.J. Hughes, April 25, 1963, collection of the author
Jacques Barbeau, The E.J. Hughes Album: The Paintings, Volume 1, 1932 - 1991, 2011, reproduced page 39

As a landscape painter, E.J. Hughes at first concentrated on waterfront subjects near his home on Vancouver Island. Then, after signing an exclusive contract to sell all his work to Dr. Max Stern of the Dominion Gallery in Montreal, Hughes expanded his range of subject matter, with Stern’s encouragement.

Hughes enjoyed recording detailed townscapes from a high point of view, and between 1956 and 1967, he made several tours of the British Columbia interior, capturing the layouts of Ashcroft, Kamloops, Kaslo and Hazelton. In 1958, Hughes visited and recorded Revelstoke, at the confluence of the Columbia and Illecillewaet Rivers. Hughes did not own a car and, after traveling to Revelstoke by train and bus, he hiked up the mountains in search of picturesque views. Up to years later, back in the studio, he used his drawings, which were imprinted on his profound visual memory, to create large-scale and richly detailed paintings.

After his trip in 1958, when he was back home at Shawnigan Lake, Hughes reported to Stern at the Dominion Gallery: “Unfortunately…the weather turned rainy with clouds obscuring the mountains while we were at Revelstoke...However, in spite of 4 or 5 days of rain with resulting no sketching, the rest of the days there were sunny, with the mts. only slightly hazy from a small forest fire. I did manage to obtain 9 usable mountain, river and town sketches.”

Over the years Hughes painted a number of canvases of Revelstoke. These include The Columbia River at Revelstoke (1961), followed immediately by the outstanding Eagle Pass at Revelstoke, BC (1961). He next painted Revelstoke and Mount Begbie (1962) and, ultimately, on April 18, 1963, Hughes sent off Above Revelstoke (1963), the largest of them all. Dr. Stern added a short note in the margin of the letter accompanying payment for Above Revelstoke, stating, “It is a very beautiful painting.”

In Above Revelstoke, the infinite patience Hughes brought to his tonal rendering of the forested slopes conveys the quiet majesty of the Monashee Mountains. The slopes of Mount Begbie suggest a slight smoke haze. On the lower levels he added touches of autumnal colours to draw the eye. The snowmelt water of the Columbia and Illecillewaet Rivers bisects the canvas, and seen in sunshine and shade, it offers a pleasant freshness to the scene as it meanders between islets and sandbars.

In the foreground a road and a railway line make their way across the Illecilliwaet River on a pair of iron bridges. For colour accents Hughes has included piles of lumber in ochre and sienna and a conical orange mound of sawdust. Modest houses are set among yards and fields and vacant lots. On closer inspection, one can make out the individual sidewalks and simple front porches, with driveways ending at sheds and outbuildings. What may be a new school building speaks of the growth of this small Canadian community. While this painting seems to give a magic sense of the reality of Revelstoke, it is not like a photograph. The rhythmic disposition of red roofs across the lower half of the painting shows that the composition was actually the imaginative creation of a masterful designer.

Seven months after the artist shipped this work to Montreal, on November 16, 1963, Stern reported back to Hughes: “It will please you to learn that we sold the painting Above Revelstoke, BC to old-established friends and clients of our Galleries in Dusseldorf, London and Montreal and who are art collectors of extreme importance with residence in Holland.” The paintings of Hughes have proved to be of far more than local interest!

We thank Robert Amos, artist and writer from Victoria, BC, for contributing the above essay. Amos is the official biographer of Hughes and has so far published three books on his work. Building on the archives of Hughes’s friend Pat Salmon, Amos is at work on a catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.

Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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