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LOT 139

1888 - 1949

Gilbert LaBine Discovers Pitchblende, May 16, 1930
oil on board
signed and on verso titled
25 x 30 in 63.5 x 76.2 cm

Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000

Sold for: $31,250

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Acquired directly from the Artist by Gilbert A. LaBine, Toronto
By descent within the family to the present Private Collection, Ontario

Franz Johnston to Gilbert LaBine, March 18, 1939

This painting by Franz Johnston commemorates prospector Gilbert LaBine’s 1930 discovery of a rich vein of pitchblende, now known as uraninite, in the Northwest Territories. Initially prized for the cobalt, silver and radium that could be refined from it, this ore would eventually alter LaBine’s fortune, along with the fate of the world. One of the by-products of pitchblende’s refinement is uranium, then relatively valueless. However, the escalation of World War II and the race to produce the first atomic bomb led to a surge in uranium’s value and, in turn, the nationalization of LaBine’s mine and ultimately the Allied victory in 1945. In parallel with these historic events, LaBine arranged for artists such as Johnston and A.Y. Jackson to be flown to his Eldorado mine, located near Great Bear Lake, and the works they produced there constitute important segments of their artistic production. In a letter dated March 18, 1939, written to LaBine while on one of these excursions, Johnston remarked on the beauty of the area, describing “clear sparkling skies of blue that are never the same shade.”

Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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