CGP CSGA CSPWC
1882 - 1953
Rowboat on Shore II, Severn River, Muskoka, Ontario / Campfire at Noon (verso)
double-sided oil on canvas, 1933
signed and on verso titled Canoe in the Bay on the Laing gallery label
12 x 16 in, 30.5 x 40.6 cm
Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000
Sold for: $85,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Sale of the Artist to Vincent Massey, Toronto, 1934
James Wilson and Co., Ottawa, 1935
Elizabeth Smart, Ottawa, 1935
Raffled to unknown owner, 1935
Laing Galleries, Toronto
Acquired from the above by Mr. and Mrs. William P. Wilder, Toronto, 1968
David Milne Jr. and David P. Silcox, David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume 2: 1929 - 1953, 1998, page 576, Rowboat on Shore II reproduced page 571 and Campfire at Noon reproduced pages 576, catalogue #303.3 and #303.17
Mellors Galleries, Toronto, Exhibition of Paintings by David B. Milne, November 27 - December 8, 1934, catalogue #23
James Wilson and Co., Ottawa, Paintings by David B. Milne, January 29 - February 1935, catalogue #14
In May of 1933, David Milne left his home in Palgrave, southern Ontario; looking for a new painting place, he set off up the Severn River by canoe, with limited supplies for camping and painting. The location of Rowboat on Shore II is likely on the banks of the Severn River, between Severn Falls and the marine railway at Big Chute, where Milne camped over the summer of 1933. During his explorations of the area, he paddled to Six Mile Lake by canoe and was favourably impressed by what he saw. David Silcox commented that “the terrain there seemed open and congenial…The shore and bays were littered with driftwood, pine stumps and logs, mostly, the result of earlier logging of the area and a much earlier (1915) major forest fire.” Milne visited the lake several times to sketch until he decided to commit to the location; he moved there permanently in September and built his cabin over the fall and early winter.
This double-sided canvas is exceptional in that the front and back images are completely finished. Milne’s painting supplies were limited in the early stages when he was camping, and it is possible that, wanting to continue painting, he flipped the canvas over and continued with the campfire scene. Later, when Milne finished his cabin, he laid in a store of painting supplies for the winter.
This is a marvellous opportunity to acquire a work that depicts different aspects of Milne’s campsites – Rowboat on Shore II on the banks of the Severn River and Campfire at Noon at Six Mile Lake. These sites were remote, far from towns and people, where Milne could paint in peace. Silcox wrote, “Living virtually in the open, surrounded by nature in the raw and practically out of sight and sound of other humans, Milne found himself submerged in the natural world. It provided inspiration, dramatic excitement, aesthetic stimulation and ready material for his meditations.”
Campfire at Noon is an accomplished modernist work. In a 1934 sale list, Milne expressed how pleased he was with the painting, noting: “ ‘Camp fire at Noon', Six Mile Lake, 1933, Rather unusual subject matter, a daytime fire. Quite successful.” The brushwork is fluid, and the single-colour warm grey ground is a colour not chosen for its realism, but to unify the floating forms of rocks, firewood, fire and cooking pots, which hover over the colour-field background. Just a handful of colours—orange, red, white and black—accent the forms, which are defined with black lines and blocks of black. It is a vibrant and playful painting, full of movement.
In Rowboat on Shore II, Milne boldly used areas of roughly brushed black to define mass in the rock forms. Areas of white define the tops of the rocks and bring light into the painting, as do the strip of featureless sky and the wedge of water at the left. Black lines are used throughout to define the elements of the landscape, with Milne’s spare use of purple, orange, red, blue and green illuminating the lines and causing sparks with small, bright chunks of colour. The rowboat, lying among the rocks, almost melds into the landscape, but stands out due to the strips of red and green along its side. Rowboat on Shore II is a strong landscape, inventive in its definition of space and form.
This work was among the large group of works sold in 1934 to Vincent and Alice Massey so that Milne could have funds to continue painting. The painting was displayed in a show at Mellors Galleries in late 1934 that comprised works from this group acquired by the Masseys.
For the biography on Mr. and Mrs. William P. Wilder in PDF format please click here.
Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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