Lot Sale Results

Michael James Aleck Snow

Michael James Aleck Snow

Michael James Aleck Snow
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

Lot # 005

Michael James Aleck Snow
OC RCA 1928 - Canadian

Green Belt
oil on canvas (also catalogued as polymer on canvas)
on verso signed, titled and dated 1963
26 1/2 x 45 1/2 in  67.3 x 115.6cm

The Isaacs Gallery Ltd., Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto

Louise Dompierre, editor, Walking Woman Works: Michael Snow, 1961 - 67: New Representational Art and Its Uses, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 1983, reproduced page 51 and listed pages x and 157
Michael Snow, Biographie of the Walking Woman, 1961 - 1967, 2004, reproduced, unpaginated

Poindexter Gallery, New York, Michael Snow, January 28 – February 15, 1964, catalogue #23
Henry Street Settlement, New York, Gymnasium Show I, June 10 – 21, 1964, third prize
The Isaacs Gallery Ltd., Toronto, Interim Works by Four Artists, January 7 – 27, 1965, catalogue #6

A multi-talented artist, filmmaker and musician, Michael Snow is well into his seventh decade as an artist, using any medium that furthers his creative ambition. In 1967, through a veil of false modesty and insouciance, he claimed he was not a professional: his paintings were done by a sculptor, sculptures by a filmmaker, films by a musician, and sometimes the paintings were done by a painter, sculptures by a sculptor, and films by a filmmaker. Like all innovators, Snow gives himself permission to do what he needs, when he needs it, and how he needs it.

Born in Toronto, raised in Rosedale, schooled at Upper Canada College and a graduate of the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University), Snow established himself on the Toronto art scene in the early 1950s as a painter. During his first two-artist exhibition, in January 1955 with Graham Coughtry at Hart House at the University of Toronto, the mayor of Toronto questioned the propriety of their figurative art, fomenting a succès de scandale that famously prompted an exasperated Coughtry to think aloud that every damn tree in Canada had been painted.

Snow’s first solo exhibition of Walking Woman works opened at Toronto’s Isaacs Gallery in March 1962. That year he and his then wife, Joyce Wieland, left Toronto for New York, where they would remain until 1971. At the time of their move, both were established in Toronto, showing at the Isaacs Gallery and pursuing careers in commercial and fine arts. Within two years, Green Belt debuted in Snow’s first solo exhibition in New York, at the Poindexter Gallery. The Poindexter exhibition in January and February 1964 had 27 Walking Woman works, including Sideway (sold at Heffel, November 24, 2011, when it achieved the record price for Snow at auction) and Green Belt’s much exhibited and published variant, BEACH-HCAEB (collection of the McIntosh Gallery, Western University, London, Ontario, catalogue #1.33).

Green Belt and BEACH-HCAEB are imperfectly mirrored Walking Women that Snow indicated could be described as monoprints. Commonly, a monoprint is a painted design on a smooth, rigid matrix that is run through a press to leave an impression on a support, usually paper. Snow made up his own rules by painting the matrix on canvas, folding it over and printing mirrored images on one surface. With paint on the left and right sides of the canvas, he folded the canvas in half and then carefully pressed the sides against each other to register the composition in reverse.

Snow’s incorporation of printmaking techniques in his paintings is limited to his 1963 paintings Green Belt and BEACH-HCAEB, and the 1964 sculpture Register (collection of the Art Gallery of Hamilton, catalogue #1999.1.1). His 1963 monoprint paintings follow Andy Warhol’s embrace of the silkscreen printmaking technique for his paintings by one year. But whereas Warhol’s silkscreening allowed economy of scale by reusing the matrix and abandoned the notion of painterly touch, Snow’s technique was singular and predicated on touch. Given the labour required, it is not surprising that Snow used the technique only twice.

Like Michael Snow’s best works, Green Belt combines visual appeal and the enigma of its elements. One does not have to know the Walking Woman series to apprehend the image because of Snow’s deft touch with colour and composition. Green Belt has had one owner since leaving the artist’s possession in the 1960s. It has not been exhibited since its 1965 showing at the Isaacs Gallery in a four-artist show with Richard Gorman, Robert Markle and Wieland, and, for the first time in more than half a century, the last of Snow’s monoprint paintings in private hands will be shown and offered at public auction.

We thank Gregory Humeniuk, art historian, writer and curator, for contributing the above essay.

Estimate: $70,000 ~ $90,000 CAD

Sold For: $169,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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