CGP CSPWC G7 OC POSA PRCA
1898 - 1992
Pic Island, Lake Superior
oil on board
signed and on verso titled, dated October 1928 and inscribed "Coldwell"
9 3/8 x 11 1/8 in, 23.8 x 28.3 cm
Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000 CAD
Sold for: $481,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Acquired directly from the Artist by a Private Collection, Toronto
By descent in the family to the present Private Collection, Toronto
A.Y. Jackson, A Painter's Country: The Autobiography of A.Y. Jackson, 1958, forword by Paul Duval, page 46
A.J. Casson, My Favourite Watercolours, 1919 to 1957, 1982, pages 46 and 50
The north shore of Lake Superior was a revelation to me and my sketches of the area were a major departure from anything I had done before.
The sketching trip A.J. Casson took to the north shore of Lake Superior in late October 1928 was one of foundational importance for him. Only two years prior, Casson had been formally inducted as a full member of the renowned yet still controversial Group of Seven, and this trip was one of his first with other members. An important element of context is that at this time, though Casson was already in full command of his mature voice, he was still a young artist of 30, more than a decade younger than Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson, and already an artist of note. He was slightly nearer in age to Franklin Carmichael, Casson’s close friend and mentor, for whom Casson apprenticed at the commercial art firm Rous & Mann Ltd.
Casson recalled the trip to their chosen campsite near Port Coldwell, then no more than a tiny fishing village, as difficult. It even required some light bribery of rail workers by Harris to secure the slowing of their train so the artists could jump off at the correct location, their luggage and supplies being thrown out after them. A railway handcart then met them to take the artists the rest of their way before the final hike to their campsite. The weather was brutal, snowing nightly, and although some of Casson’s best watercolours were produced in relation to this trip, such as Lake in the Hills, Lake Superior, sold by Heffel in May of 2019, these were strictly studio ventures, as the often cold, wet and blustery weather precluded the use of any medium other than oil on board. These conditions, however, did not keep Casson and his companions from producing some of the most important compositions of the era. “It was the first time I had ever seen such rugged and majestic scenery,” Casson wrote, “and I was overwhelmed by it.”
Jackson famously noted in his 1958 autobiography A Painter’s Country with regards to Lake Superior’s northern shore, “I know of no more impressive scenery in Canada for the landscape painter. There is a sublime order to it…..,” and this small oil sketch by Casson proves the truth of that statement. Executed in the artist’s early board size of 9 ¼ by 11 ½ inches and produced en plein air, Pic Island, Lake Superior feels like evidence of inspiration at work. His expression of sunlight dazzles as it strikes the lake’s steely waters, breaking into dappled play on the near side of the island. The bare, elemental forms of the tree trunks in the foreground, stripped down to their essence by a forest fire that had moved through the area, are expressed tersely yet elegantly, while subtle autumnal flourishes note the return of some of the local vegetation. This richly coloured foreground is masterfully balanced by the use of a single band of ultramarine in the far distance on the right, implying the lake’s famous size and depth. This sketch is an exceptional example that could easily be ranked among the artist’s best.
Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000 CAD
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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