BHG CGP RCA
1896 - 1980
Portrait of Frances Holgate
oil on canvas, circa 1925 - 1930
signed and on verso inscribed "DP04"
40 1/4 x 34 1/8 in, 102.2 x 86.7 cm
Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000
Sold for: $121,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Estate of Edwin Holgate, Montreal
By descent to Mary Frances Holgate's nephew, Quebec
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, November 25, 2004, lot 86
Private Collection, Calgary
Jacques Des Rochers, 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2015, reproduced page 268
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group, October 24, 2015 - January 31, 2016, traveling in 2016 - 2017 to the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Art Gallery of Windsor and Glenbow Museum, Calgary, catalogue #287
Lilias Torrance Newton was one of the most important portraitists working in Canada during the twentieth century. She trained with the painter William Brymner in Montreal and later in Paris, and was a member of the Beaver Hall Group. Elected an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1923, she became a full academician in 1937 and submitted her diploma painting, a striking portrait of Louis Muhlstock, in 1940. She also showed her work with the Group of Seven. Newton received international recognition - she participated in the Salon of the Société des artistes français in 1923, winning an honourable mention for her portrait Denise. Her work was shown in the influential British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, England, in 1924 to 1925. She was invited to the First Pan-American Exhibition of Oil Paintings in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1925 to 1926, and her portrait Yvonne was acquired by the museum.
Newton had married Frederick G. Newton in 1921, but they divorced in 1933. Montreal painter Marion Scott related that Torrance only agreed to marry if she could spend six months studying in Paris. As a single mother, Newton struggled to make a living as a portrait painter in the Depression. She was supported by the National Gallery of Canada, in particular its director Eric Brown, whose portrait she was commissioned to paint in 1931. After the war, Newton forged a significant career as a portraitist of both the business and artistic elite of Canada. She traveled across Canada in this endeavour, and in 1957 was commissioned to paint Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
This portrait of Frances Holgate, the wife of fellow artist Edwin Holgate, is one of her most accomplished compositions. Newton was a close friend of the Holgates and also painted a fine portrait of Edwin. She had known him from her early student days, and in her strongly structured portraits one can see her close alignment with Holgate’s formal concerns. Newton studied in Paris with the Russian émigré artist Alexandre Iacovleff, a portraitist Holgate also knew when he was taking classes in Paris. Holgate and Newton were teaching colleagues at the Art Association of Montreal and also connected through the Beaver Hall Group.
Frances Holgate, as is evident in many of Edwin’s images of her, was a woman of considerable elegance and poise. Smartly dressed in a black gown with red and green detailing in this portrait, she sits delicately on a chair. She does not look at the painter directly but looks to the light source, which bathes her face and neck with a golden illumination. The warm, mottled orange background colour provides a foil to the colours of her gown and her skin tone. The angled placement of the chair on which she sits, the acentral placement of her head, and the strong form of her elbow all give the composition a striking dynamism and force.
The decorative collar and cuffs Frances wears in this commanding portrait were stitched by Breton fishermen and were purchased by Edwin in Concarneau in 1921, when he was sketching with Canadian Impressionist James Wilson Morrice.
Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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