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Bertram Charles (B.C.) Binning

Bertram Charles (B.C.) Binning

Bertram Charles (B.C.) Binning
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

Lot # 001

Bertram Charles (B.C.) Binning
BCSFA CGP CSGA OC RAIC RCA 1909 - 1976 Canadian

Night Signals
oil on board
signed and dated 1950 and on verso titled on various labels and inscribed "Catalogue #19" on a label
29 x 34 3/4 in  73.7 x 88.3cm

Private Collection, Vancouver, early 1950s
By descent to the present Private Collection, Vancouver

B.C. Artists' 19th Annual Exhibition, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1950, listed page 1
Doreen E. Walker, B.C. Binning: A Classical Spirit, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1986, reproduced, catalogue #19, and the related 1950 oil entitled Night Harbour, in the collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, reproduced, catalogue #45, unpaginated
Abraham Rogatnick, Ian M. Thom and Adele Weder, B.C. Binning, 2006, essay by Ian M. Thom, pages 126 and 131, the 1950 oil Night Harbour reproduced page 131

Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. Artists' 19th Annual Exhibition, November 28 - December 17, 1950, catalogue #7
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, B.C. Binning: A Classical Spirit, November 28, 1985 - February 2, 1986, traveling in 1986 - 1987 to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg; Winnipeg Art Gallery; Glenbow Museum, Calgary; and the Vancouver Art Gallery, catalogue #19

B.C. Binning was a seminal figure in the West Coast modernist art scene. His teaching career began in 1933 with his appointment as an instructor at the Vancouver School of Art; he continued on to the University of British Columbia, where in 1949 he was appointed as an assistant professor at the School of Architecture. He went on to establish and head the Department of Fine Arts there in 1955. He was a cultural catalyst in Vancouver at the time, participating in the development of the UBC Fine Arts Gallery and the Nitobe Memorial Garden, as well as organizing the Festival of the Contemporary Arts. He exhibited internationally: in a survey of Canadian art in Washington, DC, in 1950; at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1952; in the Venice Biennale in 1954; in Venezuela and Washington in 1955; in Milan in 1957; and at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958. Also involved with integrating art into architecture, he designed murals for the facade of the BC Hydro building and for the interior of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Granville and Dunsmuir branch. A vital, formative contributor to the West Coast scene in both art and architecture, he affected generations of students and the cultural scene as a whole, and his influence extended nationally and internationally. He served on the Visual Arts Committee of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa from 1964 to 1967, and was on the Canada Council’s Advisory Panel for the Arts from 1965 to 1969.

Binning was an early British Columbia modernist, and his 1950s abstractions were often based on nautical themes, as in this stunning work with its abstracted flags and buoys. He had a sailboat named Skookumchuck, which he had partially built himself, and he was an enthusiastic navigator around Vancouver’s shores and the coastline of British Columbia. A sensitive observer of these seascapes, he commented, “Being a seaside person, small boats, ships and things of the sea are old loves of mine – I know them well and I find them ready forms for interpretation.”

With its colourful symbolic shapes against an inky black background, Night Signals has a strong impact. Binning must have found this image compelling, as there were two previous versions from 1950 with colour variations in the abstracted shapes - a smaller oil, 17 x 21 ½ inches, entitled Night Harbour, sold by Heffel in fall of 2010, and an 8 x 10 ½-inch oil, in the collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. He also produced a silkscreen in an edition of 20, which was printed by Gordon Smith. Our Night Signals is the largest work, and it is impressive.

Binning explained the genesis of these works from an aesthetic revelation he experienced, stating, “Night Harbour came about when I was coming home from another excursion…into the harbour in Vancouver…and suddenly you break out into all the lights of the harbour and the ships and so on, and all this black velvety summer night again with all these signals, lights flashing and neon signs – all this activity going on at night. You know it’s really quite stirring.”

Influences present in Binning’s work were more European than North American. Affinities with the work of Paul Klee and Joan Miró can be seen, and were acknowledged by Binning in his work – in the use of whimsical, abstracted forms, wiry lines and a sense of fantasy and playfulness. In Night Signals, Binning expressed his feeling of excitement through the abstracted forms radiant with colour, which, propelled by their brilliance, pop forward from the flat black surface. At the same time, Binning contained these forms in a composition that is both formal and elegant by linking them in a carefully spaced grid connected by thin lines. Binning’s unique sense of the drawn line can be seen in both his pencil drawings and his paintings – it is one of the elements that define his work. So, too, do his sense of lyricism, his imbuing of abstract shapes with emotion, his simplicity of visual statement and his cool classicism. Night Signals derives from a powerful and specifically West Coast visual experience, yet this codified expression of Vancouver’s harbour in the night is a universal visual statement, a masterwork by this important British Columbia artist.

Estimate: $40,000 ~ $60,000 CAD

Sold For: $73,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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