Sotheby's celebrated 30 years in Canada this past spring with their best ever sale

$12 million session has 27 lots selling for over $100,000


Getting the Sotheby's/Ritchies sale off to a record start was Marcelle Ferron's "Les Barrens" which sold for record $209,500 against a $40/60,000 estimate.

Setting a new record for the artist was Robert Pilot's "Cab Stand, Lower Town Quebec." Estimated at $75/100,000 it sold for $324,500.

One doesn't see many nude paintings in the Canadian art market, and certainly not of the quality of Suzor-Cote's "La Douleur" which doubled its estimate with a bid of $301,500.

Yet another new artist's record was set for Paterson Ewen's "Rain on Coastline." The 48" x 72" acrylic from 1977 sold for $198,000 at Sotheby's/ Ritchies in May 2007.

Toronto (20/15 BP)Sotheby’s celebrated 30 years in Canada with a spectacular sale that was certainly befitting the occasion. The 227 lot session held on Monday, May 28 at 10:30am in association with Ritchies, generated an outstanding $12 million with just 15% of the lots bought in. This was the company’s most successful sale in its 30 year history. In total there were 27 lots that sold for more than $100,000 and four of these fetched over $500,000. The top lot of the sale at $750,000 was Jean-Paul Riopelle’s Sans titre, a 21” x 25.5” canvas from 1951 estimated at $500/700,000 (illustrated right).


Not surprisingly, the work of Lawren Harris figured prominently among the top selling lots. Finding a buyer at $548,750 was a transitional work between the artist’s representational and abstract periods. Abstract Painting, 47”x60”, was painted c. 1930-31 and shows rays of light emanating from arctic forms. The estimate was $300/500,000. A more traditional work by the artist, Mountain Sketch XXI, a 12” x 15” oil on panel from the 1920s took a mid-estimate bid of $531,500, while Paul-Emile Borduas’ Composition, a 30” x 35” from 1956 set a new record for the artist when it sold for $450,000 ($520,000 with premium) against a $200/300,000 estimate. Borduas’ Pierres Angulaires, a 35” x 46” later work also did well selling on its high estimate for $405,000.


The sale got off to an exceptional start with the first lot, a 63.5” x 51” canvas by Marcelle Ferron, a late comer to the Automatiste movement, selling for a new artist’s record of $180,000 ($209,500 with premium). Les Barrens was estimated at $40/60,000. Arthur Lismer’s Northern Tapestry, 18.5” x 21.25” sold for $255,500, well above its $70/90,000 estimate, while Paterson Ewen’s Rain on Coastline, a 48” x 71.75” acrylic on wood from 1977 set a new record for the artist at $170,000 ($198,000 with premium). Also setting a record was Robert Pilot’s Cab Stand Lower Town, Quebec. The 15” x 18” canvas, painted in 1924, sold for a premium included $324,500, well above its $75/100,000 estimate.


The sale suffered several big-ticket disappointments which would undoubtedly have pushed the total up considerably had they been successful. The most significant was Jean-Paul Riopelle’s La Foret Ardente, a 76.5” x 90.5” canvas from 1955 that carried an estimate of $2/2.5 million, the most expensive estimate of the spring season. A Harris and Kathleen Moir Morris, each estimated at $200/300,000 also had to be bought in.


Other prices of note include a bid of $209,500 for J.E.H. MacDonald’s 1924 sketch of Lake McArthur estimated at $70/100,000, $485,500 for Frederick Varley’s Rain Squall, Georgian Bay, 8.5” x 10.5” estimated at $80/100,000, $462,500 for Jean-Paul Lemieux’s Recontre,15” x 24.5” estimated at $100/150,000, and $318,750 for the artist’s Les Disciples d’Emmaus, 40” x 29.5”, that was expected to sell for $100/150,000.


A.J. Casson’s Aftermath, 30”x 36” more than doubled its high estimate with a bid of $221,000, and David Milne’s Two Cedars, Boston Corners, an 18” x 22” canvas from 1919 set a new record for the artist when it found a buyer at a premium-inclusive $462,500. The saleroom also finally got to sell Paul Peel’s Orchestra Chairs a large 56” x 81” canvas from 1892 of children sitting on a gate in a field. The painting had been withdrawn from auction several years ago. It sold within estimate for $347,500.


Christopher Pratt’s 42”x 48” canvas of A Room at St. Vincent’s set a new record for the artist when it sold for $110,000 ($129,000 with premium), William Kurelek’s Manitoba Mountain, a 48” x 48” mixed media from 1971 soared to an impressive $336,000 against a $70/100,000 estimate, and Marc-Aurele de Foy Suzor-Cote’s La Douleur, a powerful nude portrait from 1915, found a buyer at $301,500 well above its $120/150,000 estimate.


All in all a very satisfactory celebratory sale. 

! An important auction of Canadian & International Works of Art to be held Sunday, March 29th at Westbridge Fine Art Auction House, Vancouver, B.C.

Please also view our sister sites at and for their current, ongoing online auctions!



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