1815 - 1872
Lord and Lady Simcoe Taking a Sleigh Ride
oil on canvas
signed and on verso titled on the various gallery labels, dated circa 1858 on the Masters Gallery label and inscribed with inventory #G1287 on the Waddington gallery label
14 x 21 in, 35.6 x 53.3 cm
Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000
Sold for: $133,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Laing Galleries, Toronto
Collection of Peter Bronfman, Montreal
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Montreal
Waddington & Gorce Inc., Montreal
Private Collection, Toronto
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary, 2003
Estate of Ken Stephenson, Calgary
A.K. Prakash, Canadian Art: Selected Masters from Private Collections, 2003, reproduced back cover
Lord and Lady Simcoe Taking a Sleigh Ride is a rich and detailed example of Cornelius Krieghoff’s themes of wintertime leisure activity in Quebec City. A gentleman accompanied by his wife drives a stylish cutter down a snowy slope to the St. Lawrence River for seasonal adventure, attended to by a young footman on the rear of the sleigh. In its first known appearance on the market with G. Blair Laing, the legendary dealer of Krieghoff, James Wilson Morrice, and other titans of early twentieth-century Canadian art, the painting was presented as Lord and Lady Simcoe Taking a Sleigh Ride, and it has been so known and enjoyed by collectors for decades since.
Certain attributes of Krieghoff are indicative of his time and place in mid-nineteenth-century Canada. He was born abroad and arrived in Canada via a third country as an eager and engaging artist and entrepreneur. He responded nimbly to changes in markets for his paintings: he relocated as necessary, cultivated clientele, and diversified his subjects to ensure a steady income and meet the interests of his customers. He understood his market in Canada could satisfactorily sustain him, while greater success demanded he pursue opportunities outside of the country. He reached Montreal by 1846 as a partly formed and fully ambitious artist. When he moved in 1853 to Quebec City, a better market, his ability to compose figures in the landscape, and most importantly, his ability to effectively paint a supple narrative interweaving contemporary culture and society would set him apart.
This painting is of a type that Marius Barbeau, the ethnographer and author of the first catalogue raisonné on Krieghoff, classified as “Bourgeois - Their Sleigh Drives on the Ice.” The other great scholar of Krieghoff, J. Russell Harper, classified such works as “Moving Sleigh with Bourgeois Passengers.” The shared taxonomic precision acknowledges Krieghoff’s view of society and his importance as an alternative portraitist, more precisely of renditions the well-to-do chose to have done of themselves displaying their prosperity by pursuing leisure activity distinct to Quebec. Lord and Lady Simcoe Taking a Sleigh Ride has all the hallmarks of Krieghoff’s scenes of wintertime leisure among Quebec City’s anglophone inhabitants, with a basic catalogue of horse-drawn sleds for added measure. This scene appears to have been painted around Beauport, midway between Quebec City and Montmorency, where the frozen Montmorency Falls provided a prime location for winter recreation. The distant landscape along the horizon shows the contour of the escarpment leading to the Plains of Abraham above Old Quebec.
In the foreground bottom slightly right of centre, the fine couple, wearing fur-trimmed coats, sit comfortably under a fur-lined blanket, their cutter pulled by a pair of trotting blue roans in fine harnesses and decorated hip straps. Moving clockwise, we see a red berline at centre-left with two French Canadians pulled by one horse, then a settler’s home above the principal sleigh and riders, and lastly a simple farm sleigh being hauled up a hill into the woods. Returning to the central sleigh, their merry trajectory is about to change. They are rapidly bearing down on a dip in the road at bottom left, likely to thrill the lord and lady, and are bound to send their footman airborne, possibly toppling the sleigh in the process. Simultaneously a genre scene, a landscape, a souvenir and a portrait, Lord and Lady Simcoe Taking a Sleigh Ride is a deft narrative of its place and time.
We thank Gregory Humeniuk, art historian, writer and curator, for contributing the above essay.
For the biography on Ken Stephenson in PDF format please click here.
Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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