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LOT 151

Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté
1869 - 1937

Le halage du bois
bronze sculpture
signed, dated 1924 and inscribed "Gorham Co. Founders QBFA"
14 1/2 x 61 x 5 5/8 in 36.8 x 154.9 x 14.3 cm

Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000

Preview at: Heffel Montreal

Acquired from the Artist's Estate, early 1960s
By descent to the present Private Collection, Montreal

Albert Laberge, La Presse, April 3, 1925
Laurier Lacroix, Suzor-Coté: Light and Matter, National Gallery of Canada and Musée du Québec, 2002, page 266, reproduced pages 267 and 349 and shown in an installation photograph from the 1929 exhibition page 312, and the plaster and wood maquette reproduced page 266

Art Association of Montreal, Forty-second Spring Exhibition, April 2 - 26, 1925, same cast, catalogue #401
École des beaux-arts de Montréal, Rétrospective Suzor-Coté, December 3 - 20, 1929, listed as Haleur de bois, catalogue #144

The majority of Suzor-Coté’s sculptures draw on one aspect or another of the land and one of his most ambitious works was Hauling Logs, a subject he first treated around 1909, then took up again in 1920 and exhibited in 1924. The theme, with its explicit sense of movement, consists of a farmer drawing a load of wood. The sculpture is conceived as a bas-relief frieze.

- Laurier Lacroix

In 1910, Marc-Aurèle Suzor-Coté exhibited the maquette for this work at the Ontario Society of Artists. In the maquette, only known through a photograph published in The Year Book of Canadian Art in 1913, the farmer and horse were made of sculpted plaster, and the artist used small branches and natural wood for the logs and sled. This detailed maquette was also used as a subject for a painting, which was exhibited in that same year at the Art Association of Montreal.

Suzor-Coté returned to the theme again in 1924 when he made a painting and a bronze of the log hauler. Hauling Logs, the 1924 oil on canvas in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, is a masterwork, true to the form of the original maquette and full of energy and movement. In our sculpture Le halage du bois, the details vary only slightly from those of the original maquette and the National Gallery of Canada’s painting, to allow for the different medium of bronze. The reins in the painting and maquette have become a whip, which the farmer holds in one hand and flicks lightly above the haunches of the horse as it pulls against the load of wood. The farmer’s other hand has been thrust into his pocket, and through this action, Suzor-Coté communicates the biting cold of winter. This unique and vigorous bronze is the only work the artist is known to have executed in the style of a frieze. Suzor-Coté used the flatter landscape background to emphasize the three-dimensionality of the man, horse and sled, and his use of irregular edges gives an organic feeling to the work. The bronze is textured and very finely detailed, and in the different castings, patina colours vary – our casting is predominantly dark brown, as it is a posthumous cast, done between 1937 and 1950.

When the bronze was shown in 1925 at the Art Association of Montreal, it elicited this response from Albert Laberge in La Presse: “Mr. Suzor-Côté…is establishing himself as a powerful sculptor…This composition is full of movement and action, reflecting a thorough knowledge of nature and a highly developed faculty of observation.” When the work was shown in the Suzor-Coté retrospective exhibition at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal in 1929, it was placed just off the floor, under the paintings. During the artist’s lifetime, it was often noted that his work in bronze equaled and, in some cases, surpassed his work in paint. Lacroix notes, “The sensitivity with which Suzor-Coté approached the technique of sculpting in the round, his ability to synthesise and suggest movement, and his skill in animating matter all derived from the French school of sculpture as it was practised in the late 19th century. Nonetheless, he was able to transcend this influence in his Canadian subjects, infusing them with a presence and a permanence that no other artist has ever matched."

Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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