LOT 009

1910 - 2010

Dog Team at the Berg
oil on canvas, 1975
signed and on verso inscribed "750323"
36 x 48 in, 91.4 x 121.9 cm

Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000 CAD

Sold for: $133,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Robertson Gallery, Ottawa
Acquired from the above by a Private Collection, Ottawa, 1975
By descent to the present Private Collection, Edmonton

William Moore and Stuart Reid, Celebrating Life: The Art of Doris McCarthy, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1999, pages 178, 180 and 199

Doris McCarthy was an artist, teacher and writer who made an important contribution to Canadian landscape painting. From 1926 to 1930, she studied at the Ontario College of Art, under Group of Seven artists Arthur Lismer and J.E.H. MacDonald. Through them she met Lawren Harris and visited his studio as a teenager in 1928, at a time when his simplification and purification of form and commitment to a theosophical vision of the landscape were firmly established. She experienced the storm of change that occurred in the art world around the Group at this time, and her work was influenced by their groundbreaking art. Group member A.J. Casson commented that McCarthy was “a remarkable woman who developed her own vision and stuck to it.”

Firmly immersed in the Toronto art community, McCarthy was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists, the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. From 1932 to 1972, she taught art at Toronto’s Central Technical School.

The landscape was McCarthy’s artistic focus, and from a young age she developed a love for nature; her father, George McCarthy, was an early conservationist who taught her that nature was an important part of her heritage. In 1939, she acquired land on the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario. This property she called Fool’s Paradise, and it became her lifetime home and studio. She also purchased, collectively with a group of women, Keyhole Cottage on Georgian Bay, as a summer painting base.

In 1972, she made her first, fateful trip to the Arctic. She joined the Federation of Ontario Naturalists for a week, flying from Resolute to Eureka, Grise Fiord and remote islands, followed by Pond Inlet. John and Colly Scullion, who became collectors of her work, arranged a trip to view icebergs by dogsled. McCarthy commented, “In my first year in the Arctic I met my very first iceberg and I went crazy about icebergs and started doing ice form fantasies.” Many trips to the North would follow, her last taking place in 2004, at the age of 94. Her paintings of these striking forms created an important body of work, powerful and poetic.

McCarthy was part of the grand Canadian plein air tradition of braving the cold to paint on the spot, and she experienced the sound of ice cracking in the sub-zero cold and the tang of frigid, arctic air. She also took photographs to help her develop her arctic paintings in the studio. In these works she is clearly influenced by Harris’s dramatic vision of arctic mountains and icebergs from the 1930s. However, while Harris’s arctic forms are remote and idealized, McCarthy’s portrayals, although also simplified, are infused with feeling, and in Dog Team at the Berg, the inclusion of the figure with the dog team (possibly an Inuit, possibly McCarthy herself), dwarfed by the size of the berg, conveys the very human sense of awe that the person must have experienced. McCarthy said of her response to the landscape, “I see it with my eyes and my mind and I respond to it with my emotions.”

In this magnificent large-scale work, the dramatic sculptural central iceberg with its pointed peak dominates. McCarthy’s fine handling of transparent effects of the berg below and above the water, along with the reflections of its surroundings on its surface, lends an ethereal element to the solidity of its form. Her palette of tones of blue and green, balanced by warm shades, is exquisite. Delicately ruffled cloud formations contrast with the geometric starkness of the berg and the landform behind it. Dog Team at the Berg is an outstanding work from McCarthy’s most important series, and it encapsulates her clear vision of the Far North.

Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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