LOT 207

1873 - 1932

William's Island, Georgian Bay
oil on board, circa 1931
signed and on verso signed, titled, inscribed "Certified, Thoreau MacDonald, May 1965" and with the Roberts Gallery inventory #7610S on the gallery label and stamped Dominion Gallery
8 3/8 x 10 3/8 in, 21.3 x 26.4 cm

Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000 CAD

Sold for: $34,250

Preview at:

Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Roberts Gallery, Toronto
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Montreal
Private Collection, Montreal
Canadian Fine Art, Joyner / Waddington's, November 25, 2008, lot 17
The Collection of Torben V. Kristiansen, Vancouver

J.E.H. MacDonald, one of the founding members of the Group of Seven, masterfully captures the drama and excitement of the Georgian Bay landscape in this sketch. The scene, probably viewed from William’s Island itself, presents a dramatic contrast between the enormous movement of the sky and the relative calm of the landscape below. William’s Island, Georgian Bay, likely painted in 1931 when MacDonald visited the area, is a compelling depiction of the expansive vista of Georgian Bay in the summer. This part of Lake Huron provided a rich sketching ground for several members of the Group of Seven.

The composition is dramatically divided between the land and water below and a turbulent sky above. Indeed, the active sky occupies more than half of the image. MacDonald’s depiction of this landscape has, despite the obvious haste of its creation, been carefully thought out. In fact, the sureness of the execution strongly suggests MacDonald’s genius as a painter.

The group of low trees on the left of the composition provides an important visual bridge to the background landscape, but the trees are not defined enough to delay our visual journey into the distance. The small tree in the centre provides another visual link with both the island in the mid-ground and the drama of the sky above. Tellingly, MacDonald places this small tree centrally but the island beyond is slightly acentral, as are the dramatic cloud formations above. The upper sky is painted in sweeping and thinly painted strokes. This very thinness indicates both the speed and the accuracy of MacDonald’s brushwork. Below, closer to the earth, the more richly articulated, sun-touched clouds help articulate the space of the sky. MacDonald shows a keen sensitivity to defining the visual depths of this image. A vital detail is the thin line of white that defines the top of the distant blue mountains. This simple device draws the eye deeply into far reaches of the landscape.

William’s Island, Georgian Bay is a remarkable demonstration of an artist at the top of his game. Although speedily executed, the image is convincing and transports the viewer into this dramatic landscape. The sketch exemplifies why the Group of Seven is so important to the development of Canadian painting. The image lets the viewer experience the beauty, immediacy and vastness of the Canadian landscape.

The work is signed by the artist on the lower left, J.E.H. MacDonald. It is further signed and titled by MacDonald on the verso (upper right) and certified by MacDonald’s son, the artist and designer Thoreau MacDonald, in May 1965. The painting’s verso also bears stamps and labels from several distinguished Canadian dealers—the Dominion Gallery, Montreal; the Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal; the Roberts Gallery, Toronto; and finally, Torben V. Kristiansen’s own gallery, the Art Emporium, Vancouver.

For the biography on Torben V. Kristiansen in PDF format, please click here.

Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000 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.