LOT 117

1882 - 1953

Ski-Jump After Snow
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1928 and on verso titled Ski Jump and inscribed "43" (circled) / "ST#A144" / "G39A" / "9"
12 1/2 x 16 1/2 in 31.8 x 41.9 cm

Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000

Preview at: Heffel Vancouver

Sale of the Artist to Vincent Massey, Toronto, 1934
Michael Wright, London, England, circa 1937
Robertson Galleries, Ottawa, 1958
W.J. Touhey, Ottawa, 1959
Wallack Galleries, Ottawa, 1972
Warwick Gallery Ltd., Vancouver, 1972
The Art Emporium, Vancouver, 1972
Loch Mayberry Fine Art Inc., Winnipeg, 1990
Inter-City Products Corporation, Toronto, 1990
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary, 1996
Private Collection, Calgary

Peter Savage and Linda Snider, Sight and Site: Location and the Work of David B. Milne, Nickle Arts Museum, 1997, reproduced page 29
David Milne Jr. and David P. Silcox, David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume 1: 1882 - 1928, 1998, reproduced page 443, catalogue #207.110

Nickle Arts Museum, University of Calgary, Sight and Site: Location and the Work of David B. Milne, August 8 - November 2, 1997

This impressive oil painting displays the full array of David Milne’s greatest qualities as an artist: it is simple in conception and overall feel, yet also intricate in the interplay of foliage and light across the hillside we see. Large areas are left open to suggest the new snowfall, yet they are carefully inflected with hue and gesture to suggest the play of a soft light on these white expanses. Although no people are literally shown, Milne’s inclusion of the prominent Lake Placid ski facility, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980, reminds us that we are in a cultivated precinct of upstate New York, USA.

Like the atmosphere in Ski-Jump After Snow, the area shown was saturated with meaning for the artist. David and Patsy Milne lived in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State - specifically in the Moose Lake and Lake Placid area - from 1924 to 1929. Milne had studied at the Art Students League of New York and then worked in the USA after he left Ontario in 1903, but these years around Lake Placid were the last of his decades south of the Canadian border.

Milne was a highly accomplished and intermittently acclaimed artist by this time, in his forties. However, he was not established, and he still could not make a living from his painting. The Lake Placid area provided other work because it was a year-round vacation destination for the elite of the northeastern USA. The Milnes took over the management of a tea house at the local resort, and Milne borrowed money to purchase land and built a large cottage on Moose Lake. That project took much longer, and cost more, than he anticipated. Wanting for money, he had little time for his art. In the summer of 1928, Milne wrote in a letter, “This is as near death as a human being ever gets short of the real thing. One's whole attention is taken with hammering and sawing and nailing. Such life as that allows in one's mind is as disconnected and aimless as a dream.”[1] The outstanding work that we do have from this locale and period is thus all the more remarkable.

The exquisite balance of this oil painting stems not only from the intriguing marking of the surface or its openness of composition. Perhaps surprisingly for a snow scene, there is almost no pure white in the work. Trees and ground support what we read as snow, but flecks of purple and orange play across the surface, enlivening and unifying the scene. The textured canvas shows through in the forested areas, grounding what is a very lightly painted surface. Milne used greys and blacks as accents, which also indicate both the structure and outlines of trees. The result is always subtle visually yet always strong structurally.

Milne was the most careful of observers, both of the landscape that he knew so well and of atmosphere. Those connected but also different areas are set into conversation in Ski-Jump After Snow by Milne’s deft touch. Sky at the top and the valley floor near the bottom of the image are treated in a similar manner. On prolonged viewing, one result is that the ski hill and wooded areas begin to float - to become an unmoored, almost imaginary band of telluric reality between sky and valley floor or in an insubstantial ether. If this is a dreamlike landscape, it was not, as Milne feared, aimless.

We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto and author of Landscape into Eco Art: Articulations of Nature Since the ’60s, for contributing the above essay.

1. David P. Silcox, Painting Place: The Life and Work of David B. Milne (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 189.

Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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