Frank Hans (Franz) Johnston
ARCA CSPWC G7 OSA
1888 - 1949
oil on canvas
signed and dated indistinctly 1921 and on verso dated circa 1921 on the Kenneth G. Heffel Fine Art Inc. label
30 x 40 po 76.2 x 101.6 cm
Estimation : $250,000 - $350,000
Exposition à : Heffel Toronto – 13 avenue Hazelton
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Montreal
The Art Emporium, Vancouver, 1974
Kenneth G. Heffel Fine Art Inc., Vancouver
Peter and Joanne Brown Collection, Vancouver, acquired from the above in 1985
Ross King, Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven, 2010, page 284
In September of 1918, Frank Johnston was invited by Lawren Harris to join in on the first of the now famous boxcar trips into Algoma, Ontario, that Harris was planning with Dr. James MacCallum and J.E.H. MacDonald. Wrote Harris, “Jim [MacDonald] informs me that he has informed you that we intend going North a-sketching this fall. We would be delighted to have you join us.” Johnston had been to Bon Echo in 1915 as well as the northern Ontario mining town of Hearst in 1916, and his love of the wilderness was burgeoning. Hearst was the farthest north that any of the artists who would become the Group of Seven had been—this journey outdistanced even the explorations of Tom Thomson in terms of northerly latitude.
Johnston’s A Northern Night (1917), in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, was based on the aurora light displays Johnston had seen on this Hearst trip and, with a price tag of $250, was his first important sale. This was a significant success and so, despite numerous commitments, Johnston took time away from his work at the commercial art firm Rous & Mann Ltd., as well as from his work sketching activities at Royal Air Force training schools in and around Toronto for the Canadian War Memorials Fund. It would be the first of several Algoma trips that Johnston would participate in, and the terrain he saw and sketched and the experiences he had there seeded a fertile and rich chapter in his career.
Johnston was very productive on these trips, painting in tempera—as was his practice—and later working up canvases in his studio. Another trip to Algoma occurred in 1919, this time to a cottage rented at Mongoose Lake, in the same region. Then, twice in 1920, in spring and fall, Harris arranged for the painters to go back into Algoma. Johnston participated in the September trip, working in tempera and gouache, media that allowed him to capture detail and decorative pattern, always a strong factor in his work.
Algoma is one of Johnston’s finest works from this area, showing his interest in detail in the pattern of leaves, moss and water, as well as being characteristic of the close-up, on-the-spot nature of the boxcar works. Johnston’s letters and journals speak fondly of these trips: of the amicable nature of his fellow painters, of the enthusiasm they shared for the scenery, of the challenges that living as an isolated group in close quarters presented, and of the unpredictable weather that challenged their plans. It was a time when shared enthusiasm produced tremendous results, and in this masterful example of the Algoma paintings, Johnston takes us right to the edge of the stream, so deep into the forest that we feel as if we are there, caught fully in the lush closeness of leaves and water and mossy rocks. Indeed, we feel as if we might be dangling our feet in the rushing water as we gaze across it, as we are almost at eye level with the small waterfall on the far shore. Although cool green pervades, Johnston’s bright touches of fall colour tell us that this canvas likely had its source in the September Algoma trip.
Estimation : $250,000 - $350,000
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