1860 - 1892
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1890
15 1/8 x 18 1/4 in 38.4 x 46.4 cm
Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
Sold for: $22,500
Mr. Sherry, London, Ontario
Dr. John Sherry, Virginia
Kaspar Gallery, Toronto, 1985
Claude Gougeon, 1985
Private Collection, Montreal
Private Collection, Toronto
Oliver, Coate & Co., Catalogue of Oil Paintings by Paul Peel, R.C.A., 1890, reproduced page 12
Victoria Baker, Paul Peel: A Retrospective, 1860 - 1892, London Regional Art Gallery, 1986, reproduced page 153
Oliver, Coate & Co., Toronto, Oil Paintings by Paul Peel, R.C.A., October 13 – 15, 1890, titled as Landscape, Normandy, lot 57
London Regional Art Gallery, Paul Peel: A Retrospective, 1860 - 1892, September 6 - October 26, 1986, traveling in 1986 - 1987 to the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; Concordia Art Gallery, Montreal; Winnipeg Art Gallery; and Vancouver Art Gallery, catalogue #61
This remarkable landscape by Paul Peel seems at first to be ordinary in subject matter: it is of the rural French countryside, most likely Normandy, and contains the figure of an old woman and cows which congregate inquisitively at a fence, features that suggest Peel was working precisely within the tradition of the conventionally picturesque, as he had done before. But then, the viewer notices the gleaming light that punctuates the painting's velvety dark setting.
Landscape is dominated by the light throughout the scene. Sunshine breaks through the trees at the right and partially outlines the shapes of the cows; it falls on the body of water, which seems to shimmer in the foreground. The extraordinary attention Peel paid to the effects of the light is proof of the artist’s keen appreciation of Impressionism.
The French Impressionists had made their debut in a private group exhibition in the spring of 1874, but Canadian artists in Paris in the 1880s studying with academic teachers such as Jean-Léon Gérôme—including Peel, who began to study with him in 1882—ignored Impressionism. Although Peel had disdained Impressionism during his early years as a painter, Landscape is a witness to the fact that by 1890, he was a convert.
It is possible that Peel was half hoping to develop his talents as a landscape artist alongside his figure painting. In this landscape, he was not seeking to achieve a photographic likeness but to express a time of day and a mood of intense tranquility, and for that he needed something special - an accurate depiction of light in its varying qualities.
In a chronological catalogue of Peel’s oil paintings published in 1890 and arranged by him for an auction of his work in Toronto by Oliver, Coate & Co. Auctioneers, Landscape, Normandy, lot 57, is the final work in that sale. It may be the painting featured here, and would have been purchased from the auction by Mr. Sherry, who lived in London, Ontario, and who would have been interested in a local star like Peel.
Landscape is not unlike the tentative first works of William Blair Bruce or Maurice Cullen, which were so often of water. Later, the concept of shimmering light on water was taken further in the Post-Impressionist landscapes Lawren Harris painted at Lake Superior and those Franklin Carmichael painted of the lakes of the La Cloche Mountains of northern Ontario. Besides being an enchanting record of colour and light, Landscape by Peel is a harbinger of a new era in Canadian art.
We thank Joan Murray, writer, curator and art historian, for contributing the above essay.
Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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