Lot Sale Results

Edward John (E.J.) Hughes

Edward John (E.J.) Hughes

Edward John (E.J.) Hughes
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

Lot # 049

Edward John (E.J.) Hughes
BCSFA CGP OC RCA 1913 - 2007 Canadian

Kitwanga (Near Hazelton in Northern British Columbia)
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1981 and on verso signed, titled and inscribed with a description by the artist
24 x 36 1/2 in  61 x 92.7cm

Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Montreal
Corporate Collection, Montreal
Sold sale of Important Canadian Art, Sotheby's Canada in association with Ritchie's, November 20, 2006, lot 93, reproduced as the cover lot
Property from an Important Private Collection to Benefit a Charitable Foundation

Leslie Allan Dawn and Patricia Salmon, E.J. Hughes: The Vast and Beautiful Interior, Kamloops Art Gallery, 1994, page 44, the related 1992 watercolour Totem Poles at Kitwanga, BC reproduced page 36 and the 1967 graphite drawing Kitwanga, BC and the 1967 graphite drawing for the watercolour reproduced page 59
Gerta Moray, Unsettling Encounters: First Nations Imagery in the Art of Emily Carr, 2006, the 1912 oil Gitwangak, in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, reproduced page 191 and the 1912 watercolour Gitwangak, in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, reproduced page 193
Jacques Barbeau, The E.J. Hughes Album: The Paintings, Volume 1, 1932 - 1991, 2011, reproduced page 76 and the 1991 painting Kitwanga II reproduced page 87

In 1967, E.J. Hughes was awarded a Canada Council grant, which supported his sketching trip through British Columbia’s northern interior that same year. In their new Pontiac car, Hughes and his wife drove to Hazelton, on the Skeena River. Hughes’s inscription on verso provides more detail:

“In the summer of 1967 my wife and I spent two weeks at New Hazelton in northern British Columbia so that I could sketch the marvelous totem poles and mountain scenery of the area. Mrs. Hughes stayed at a motel while I drove out daily to sketch. Nearby were the old town of Hazelton and the village of South Hazelton, where there is now a large Indian Art Center for tourists. A few miles drive to the north and west were the Indian villages of Kispiox, Kitwanga and Kitwancool, each with its still standing totem poles. I sketched in pencil and wrote down colours.”

During his visit to Kitwancool, Hughes found that the settlement’s totems had been taken down for restoration. But at Kitwanga, which was a trade centre for the northwest First Nations people, the poles were standing. They had already been taken down, restored and reinstalled in 1926. David Darling and Douglas Cole, in their article “Totem Pole Restoration on the Skeena, 1925-30: Early Exercise in Heritage Conservation,” discussed the history of this restoration. The work was carried out in a collaboration between the Canadian National Railway (which had a vested interest in tourism in the area) and the federal government, amid concern about the decay and disappearance of the totems. During this project, 30 poles in the Skeena River area were restored. The poles at Kitwanga were considered to be the best, and nine were restored after permission was given by the chiefs and owners. Also, a new gravel and cinder path was laid between the railway station and the village, which is visible in the foreground of this painting.

Emily Carr had also visited Kitwanga (also known as Gitwangak), in 1912 and 1928. Two of Carr’s depictions of Kitwanga / Gitwangak from 1912 reside in museum collections: the oil Gitwangak, in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the watercolour Gitwangak, in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. On her second trip, in 1928, she reported how the poles differed from how they had appeared in 1912. It was not possible at the time of restoration to reproduce the old colours, so the totems had been soaked in grey paint and the details delineated in bright colours. Although Carr was glad that the poles were being preserved, she did not approve of these colour changes.

Hughes made two graphite sketches of the totems at Kitwanga, which resulted in the 1991 painting Kitwanga II, a 1992 watercolour entitled Totem Poles at Kitwanga, BC, and this remarkable work from 1981. When Dr. Max Stern of the Dominion Gallery, Hughes’s dealer in Montreal, received this work, he was most impressed with the subject and “the quality of the atmosphere rendered.” Retired anthropologist and conservator Philip Ward sent a letter of praise from Ottawa, stating, “It is the painting of Kitwanga that really delights me. Mr. Hughes has not only represented the poles accurately, but he has captured the subtle atmosphere of the place. Even the quality of light and the sense of stillness are exactly right…” He went on to say that Hughes depicted the locale exactly as he remembered, and that he had recorded it before the tall pole fell and suffered damage, and before the group of houses behind the pole were replaced by modern bungalows. Thus this work is not only a stunning image, but also an important historical record of Kitwanga.

Hughes’s keen eye for detail focused on both the powerful features of the totems and their tranquil and uplifting setting. Kitwanga (Near Hazelton in Northern British Columbia) is emphatic proof that Hughes had an extraordinary ability to capture the unique and striking nature of British Columbia scenes no matter where he painted in the province, an ability that made him one of Canada’s finest landscape artists.

Estimate: $150,000 ~ $250,000 CAD

Sold For: $157,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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