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Clarence Alphonse Gagnon

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon
Canadian, Impressionist & Modern Art Live auction

Lot # 124

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon
CAC RCA 1881 - 1942 Canadian

Late Afternoon Sun (House and Brook)
oil on canvas circa 1908 ~ 1913
signed
20 x 26 in  50.8 x 66cm

Provenance:
Watson Art Galleries, Montreal
Hugh Mackay and Elizabeth Greenshields, Montreal
Robert Mackay, Montreal
A gift from the above to a Private Collector, Florida
By descent to the present Private Collection, Colorado

Literature:
Hélène Sicotte and Michèle Grandbois, Clarence Gagnon, 1881 - 1942: Dreaming the Landscape, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2006, page 206

Regarding Baie-Saint-Paul, Clarence Gagnon stated, "My memories of the bay…were probably the happiest days of my life.“ He wrote this on his fiftieth birthday, after a distinguished career that began in Paris at the turn of the century and spread to London, New York, Montreal and Toronto. Though he developed his talent in the “City of Light” during the revolutionary avant-garde era, the Canadian painter owed his success to works inspired by farming villages nestled in the snow of the mountainous Charlevoix region. His northern exoticism was sought out in the art capitals of the world, due to his depiction of another era in a time of industrialization and modernization.

Gagnon settled in Paris in 1904. He was first esteemed as an engraver in the salons, starting in 1906. In 1911 he began exhibiting Canadian winter landscapes there, and in November and December of 1913, the prestigious Galerie A.M. Reitlinger at 12 rue La Boétie in the 8th arrondissement staged an exhibition of his work. Gagnon was only 32 years old, and Paysages d'hiver dans les montagnes des Laurentides au Canada (Winter Landscapes of the Laurentian Mountains in Canada) would be the only solo exhibition of his lifetime. The show consisted of 54 paintings and pochades inspired by Charlevoix landscapes. The painter completed the pochades on site. He also brought back many sketches and photographs from his first two sojourns in Canada, from 1908 to 1910 and from 1912 to 1913. These trips gave him the material to create paintings back in his Parisian studio on rue Falguière.

During these visits, Gagnon explored the full expressive power of the bright and vibrant colours that suffused the Laurentian landscapes, which were especially attractive in winter. Sensitive for a time to the fleeting impressions of light on snow, he soon began translating the effects of winter “by the contradictory sensations of warm light blazing on snowy ground,” as Léon de Saint-Valéry wonderingly described it in the Revue des beaux-arts in May 1912. Gagnon’s painting evolved from capturing atmospheric effects towards a synthetism that bore witness to his familiarity with the work of Paul Gauguin. It then continued towards a decorative stability, favouring the interplay of arabesques and sinuous lines while contrasting warm colours with cool.

Gagnon’s exhibition at Galerie Reitlinger crystallized his principles, of which Late Afternoon Sun (House and Brook) is a fine example. Likely completed between 1908 and 1913, the composition shows a farmhouse and outbuildings on the hills in the area of Baie-Saint-Paul. Everything is bathed in the sunlight of a late afternoon in March. The nuanced range of pink, yellow and blue extends across the blanket of snow covering three-quarters of the canvas surface, leaving a thin section to the turquoise sky and the forest glowing red and orange at the top of the mountains. Vivacity is created by the brilliance of the yellow house and dairy, the red and green accents on the farm buildings, the violet undulation of the stream and path, as well as the upward sweep in the fine marks in the snowy fields pricked by fences and trees.

Late Afternoon Sun (House and Brook) was kept from public view for close to a century. Its existence was suspected because of rare mentions made by Gagnon and his dealers in 1914 and 1926. Gagnon gave it its title in a letter he wrote from Paris to William Watson on July 4, 1926, granting him the sale of the painting that he himself had left with the gallery Colnaghi & Obach of London on June 14, 1914, where it had remained unsold for over a decade. It was at Watson Art Galleries that Montreal lawyer Hugh Mackay acquired it. The painting remained in the family of Hugh Mackay and his wife Elizabeth Greenshields for several decades until Robert Mackay, who passed away in 1983, gave it to the grandmother of the current owner.

We thank Michèle Grandbois, co-author of Clarence Gagnon, 1881 – 1942: Dreaming the Landscape, for contributing the above essay.

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

Sold For: $253,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)


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