Sotheby's 'separation' affected numbers but not quality in solid $5.3 million fall sale


Always a solid performer at Sotheby's, the work of David Milne continues to appeal to collectors as was clearly evident with "The Yellow Rocker." Painted in 1914 and estimated at $150/250,000 it sold for $221,000.

This unusual yet charming "Snowshoeing by Moonlight" scene from J.E.H. MacDonald had lots of market appeal, despite its small size. Estimated at $25/35,000 it sold for a solid $83,000.

There were several good prices in a small session of contemporary works at Sotheby's. Among them was a surprise bid and new artist record of $60,000 for John Graham Coughtry's "Two Figures VIII". The pre-sale estimate was $10/15,000.

Recording the top price in the sale - not surprisingly - was Lawren Harris's "Lake Superior Sketch III." The 12" x 15" oil on board sold for $968,500 against a $300/500,000 estimate.

Toronto (20/15BP) – While the lot numbers might have been down somewhat from sales of a year or two ago as a result of Sotheby’s less than amicable separation from Ritchie’s, its business partner of many years, this past summer, the separation certainly didn’t affect the quality that was on display for their December 3rd Canadian Art auction. Nor did it affect bidder strength and enthusiasm, as the 127 lot sale turned in a very healthy $5,291,000 with 18% of the lots bought in. Not surprisingly in light of recent events, the highlight of the sale was another work by Lawren Harris. Lake Superior Sketch III, a 12” x 15” oil on board estimated at $300/5000 sold for an impressive $968,500.


Emily Carr’s British Columbia Landscape, a 35” x 22.5” oil on paper laid on plywood (illustrated above right) fetched an above high estimate $359,000, while David Milne’s The Yellow Rocker 1914, a 20” x 16” canvas fetched $221,000 against a $150/250,000 estimate.


There were several delightful pieces in this sale that you instinctively knew would go well over estimate. J.E.H. MacDonald’s T.M. in Gull River, an 8” x 10” oil on board showing Thoreau MacDonald as a boy wading in the river fetched $65,750 against a $25/35,000 estimate. Helen McNicoll’s An English Beach, 14” x 18” found a buyer at $221,000, well above its $90/120,000 expectation, and Edwin Holgate’s tiny Winter Snow, Quebec Farm underlined yet again the importance of snow in Canadian paintings when it soared to a bid of $100,250 against a $20/30,000 estimate.


A charming evening scene of Snowshoers walking in the moonlight by J.E.H. MacDonald was another piece that was destined to do well. Estimated at $25/35,000 it sold for a solid $83,000. Maud Lewis’s prices continue to surge forward. Two small oils each picked up bids of $13,200 in this sale. Angus Trudeau’s naďve work also enjoys strong market support. A pair of mixed media on board, 22” x 28” sold for $18,000, well above their $6/8000 estimate.


A wonderful canvas, 18” x 15” by F.M. Bell-Smith Feeding Pigeons, St. Paul’s Church Yard did well when it found a buyer at $45,000, more than 4 times estimate. Other prices of note include a bid of $244,000 for a Lawren Harris 12” x 16” panel of Northern Lake, $117,500 for Tom Thomson’s Mississauga (sic), a 4.5” x 7” canvas laid on board, and $42,000 for Franz Johnston’s Dusk, a 20” x 24” oil on board showing the lights of a cabin in the winter snow.


The sale concluded with a small session of post war and contemporary works that saw several strong prices. William Paterson Ewen’s Hail Storm, a 30” x 22.5” acrylic on paper found a buyer at $77,250, well above its $30/50,000 estimate. A definite surprise was John Graham Coughtry’s Two Figures VIII, a 50” x 56” canvas from 1963. Estimated at $10/15,000 it sold for a record $60,000. Gershon Iskowitz’s Yellow Painting – E, 55” x 68”, sold well above estimate for $48,000, while Jack Bush’s December, 46” x 66” fetched $88,750.


Harold Town’s Punch without Judy, 24” x 24” did well with a bid of $39,000, well above its $12/18,000 estimate and two works by Jean-Paul Lemieux performed within expectations. Le Patineur Solitaire, 39” x 20”, showing a lone skater sold for $111,750, just under the high estimate the same outcome for La Route, 18” x 49.5” which found a buyer at $96,000.

! 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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