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Clarence Alphonse Gagnon

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon
Canadian, Impressionist & Modern Art Live auction

Lot # 128

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon
CAC RCA 1881 - 1942 Canadian

Early Morning Mist, Château Gaillard Les Andelys on the Seine
oil on canvas circa 1910
signed and on verso signed, titled on the exhibition labels, inscribed "1647" and stamped Clarence Gagnon three times
20 x 24 in  50.8 x 61cm

Johnson and Copping, Montreal
Private Collection, Quebec

Hélène Sicotte and Michèle Grandbois, Clarence Gagnon, 1881 - 1942: Dreaming the Landscape, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2006, listed pages 396 and 403

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canadian Academy of Arts, 34th Exhibition of the RCA, beginning November 23, 1912, catalogue #91
Art Association of Montreal, 30th Spring Exhibition, March 26 - April 16, 1913
Sixth Annual Exhibition of the Canadian Art Club, Toronto, April 29 - May 31, 1913
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Memorial Exhibition of Paintings, Sketches, Etchings, etc. by Clarence Gagnon, August 7 – September 30, 1942, catalogue #45a
Art Gallery of Toronto, Memorial Exhibitions of the Work of Clarence Gagnon, RCA, J.W. Beatty, RCA, OSA, October – November 1942, catalogue #10
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Memorial Exhibition: Clarence Gagnon, 1881 - 1942, November 1942 - January 1943, catalogue #50
Cercle universitaire de Montréal, April 1943

Normandy cast its spell on the young Clarence Gagnon from the first year he settled in Paris, in 1904, as it did for many foreign artists training in the capital. For several weeks at the end of the summer, the Canadian made an annual escape from the bustle of modern life in Paris to immerse himself in the peaceful rural landscapes and thousand-year-old heritage of the Rouen region. He marvelled at its cathedral and its narrow streets lined with medieval and Renaissance facades, as well as the architecture of the old corbelled houses with their oriel windows in the picturesque villages of Caudebec-en-Caux and Pont-de-l'Arche. The subjects he drew from his Norman travels, in painting and engraving, began to be exhibited in 1905, in Paris and Canada. Starting in 1907, Gagnon suspended his Norman escapes to migrate towards other sites also favoured by artists and tourists, who traveled in ever greater numbers to Breton beaches in Saint-Malo and Dinard. The light of the sea and the beaches, enlivened by the vivid colours of umbrellas, parasols and striped, multicoloured bathing huts, brightened the palette of the painter, who, from that point on, valued lighter tints.

It was not until the autumn of 1910, after his first sojourn in Canada, that Gagnon reconnected with Normandy, living there for a couple of months to paint at Les-Andelys-sur-Seine, not far from Pont-de-l'Arche, where he used to stay. The Andelys owes its reputation to the panoramic landscapes of the Seine Valley, overlooked by the ruins of Château Gaillard (1196), site of the victory of King Philip Augustus against the formidable Anglo-Norman fortress of Richard the Lionheart (1204). In his compositions, Gagnon endeavours to evoke from a distance the remnants of the castle perched high above the limestone cliff, overlooking a bend in the river; at times, the banks of the Seine harbour a few dwellings, but more often they are densely planted with stands of trees. Thus it is in this depiction of the Andelys - veiled in early morning mist, with clumps of poplars bordering the meandering river, from the right of which a willow bows to the surface of the water.

Early Morning Mist, Château Gaillard Les Andelys on the Seine continues on the model of the pochade Misty Morning, Château-Gaillard, put up for auction 10 years ago at Heffel (November 19, 2008, lot 196). Although, with concern for composition, the painter has added the clump of trees to the right in the middle ground to augment the effect of the distance of the imposing promontory, the final depiction is undoubtedly the most minimalist of those inspired by this setting. The sharpness of the trees in the foreground is but fleeting against such a symphony in blue, pulsing to the rhythm of the fine touches of paint on the veiled surface of the water, the headland and the sky. The painter used the softness of the same colour palette to depict another misty morning landscape in Normandy, in his 1909 oil Pont-de-l’Arche (collection of the New Brunswick Museum).

After this painting’s three exhibitions in 1912 and 1913, the Canadian public was privileged to enjoy the magnificent Early Morning Mist, Château Gaillard Les Andelys on the Seine 30 years later, in 1942 and 1943, at the commemorative exhibition on the death of Clarence Gagnon. There was one more chance to admire it, at the tribute paid to the artist by the Cercle universitaire de Montréal in April 1943, before the work was removed from public view, only to surface again today, to the great interest of enthusiasts and specialists of Canadian art.

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

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

Sold For: $49,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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