LOT 026

1913 - 2007

Junction of the Thompson and Nicola Rivers
acrylic on canvas
signed and dated 1986 and on verso signed, titled, dated, inscribed variously and stamped Dominion Gallery
25 x 32 in, 63.5 x 81.3 cm

Estimate: $90,000 - $120,000 CAD

Sold for: $133,250

Preview at:

Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Heffel Gallery Ltd., Vancouver, 1995
Private Collection, Vancouver

Pat Salmon, From Sketches to Finished Works by E.J. Hughes, Nanaimo Art Gallery, 1993, this work and the related 1963 graphite drawing listed page 18
Leslie Allan Dawn and Patricia Salmon, E.J. Hughes: The Vast and Beautiful Interior, Kamloops Art Gallery, 1994, reproduced page 28 and listed page 72, the related 1963 graphite drawing reproduced page 55 and listed page 70
Jacques Barbeau, The E.J. Hughes Album, Volume 1, The Paintings, 1932 – 1991, 2011, reproduced page 82 and listed page 99, catalogue #309
Robert Amos, E.J. Hughes Paints British Columbia, 2019, reproduced page 88, the frame label and a photo of the artist holding the work reproduced page 89

Nanaimo Art Gallery, From Sketches to Finished Works by E.J. Hughes, 1993, this work and the related 1963 graphite drawing
Kamloops Art Gallery, E.J. Hughes: The Vast and Beautiful Interior, September 22 – November 6, 1994, traveling in 1995 to the Grand Forks Art Gallery; Vernon Art Gallery; Art Gallery of the South Okanagan, Penticton; Kelowna Art Gallery; and Prince George Art Gallery, catalogue #39, the related 1963 graphite drawing catalogue #2

In 1963, artist E.J. Hughes was sponsored by the Canada Council to make one of his extensive sketching trips in the BC Interior. Before leaving, he wrote to his dealer, Max Stern: “I hope to sketch the scenery around Cache Creek and Ashcroft and Lillooet, also the lake and ranchland scenery around Williams Lake.”[1] Looking back on this trip across the dry belt, accompanied by his wife, he later recalled: “With our new maroon Pontiac Acadian, I didn’t have so much walking to do. Fern enjoyed the trip, and was happy to remain alone in the motel. When she made friends with a chambermaid I was glad, as it gave her someone to talk to when I was away all day.”[2]

Cache Creek, a small town on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Kamloops, was the couple’s base for the first week. As Hughes wrote on a label for the back of this painting: “From there I drove out daily to sketch, in pencil, the surrounding scenery. South of Cache Creek, where the highway runs alongside the Thompson River, I came upon this view, and sketched it from beside the highway, writing in the colours.”[3] He parked his car a couple of kilometres north of Spence’s Bridge, and it seems likely that Hughes spent two days making the drawing and a third annotating it with the information he would later use to select the tones and colours for the painting.

At the site where he parked, the jade-green waters of the Thompson River merge with the earthy tones of the Nicola, khaki turning to beige. Where the waters meet, the surface is active with white ripples and the blue sky is reflected from above. In the middle distance, two iron bridges at different angles span the Nicola River. Closer to the viewer is the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge, and beyond it the bridge for Highway 8 from Lytton to Merritt.

The painting offered here was created 23 years after the artist visited the scene. On July 9, 1986, Hughes dispatched Junction of the Thompson and Nicola Rivers to his exclusive dealer, the Dominion Gallery in Montreal, for which he was paid $10,000. The sense of place had been powerfully distilled in the ensuing years, and the strong and well-considered composition was brought to life with the patient application of resonant colours. For example, under the bridges are strong blue shadows. In the catalogue for the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s 1993 show From Sketches to Finished Works, Pat Salmon wrote: “The first things painted in this scene were the shadows cast by the bridges. Hughes painted them cerulean blue, which he obtained by mixing Prussian blue with cobalt. It was hard to believe that blues looking that bright could ever be shadows. Yet slowly, as he painted the warm greens around them, they took their place appropriately. Hughes observes: ‘I didn’t think it would work either, but just thought I’d trust my colour notes.’ ”[4]

There is a grand scale to this landscape, yet it is everywhere relieved with precise detail: eroded riverbanks, meandering roadways, telegraph poles and houses by the riverside. The steep, rocky hillsides fading into the distance are rendered with carefully graduated tones of green, and their sparse vegetation is a patchwork of growth, with thoughtful attention given to the spaces between the trees.

Though best known for his paintings of the Pacific coast, in this deeply satisfying work Hughes shows himself to be the foremost interpreter of what has been called “the vast and beautiful Interior.”[5]

We thank Robert Amos, artist and writer from Victoria, BC, for contributing the above essay. Amos is the official biographer of Hughes and has so far published five books on his work. Building on the archives of Hughes’s friend Pat Salmon, Amos is at work on a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work.

1. E.J. Hughes to Max Stern, June 5, 1963, Special Collections, University of Victoria.

2. Quoted in Leslie Allan Dawn and Patricia Salmon, E.J. Hughes: The Vast and Beautiful Interior (Kamloops, BC: Kamloops Art Gallery, 1994), exhibition catalogue, 43.

3. From the frame label on verso.

4. Pat Salmon, From Sketches to Finished Works by E.J. Hughes (Nanaimo, BC: Nanaimo Art Gallery, 1993), exhibition catalogue, 18.

5. Jann L.M. Bailey, foreword to Dawn and Salmon, Vast and Beautiful Interior, 8.

Estimate: $90,000 - $120,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.