Vancouver (15BP) – The cash registers are still sizzling following Heffels May 25 Canadian art auction which saw an astonishing $7.4 million knocked down on the night, the second highest sale total recorded for a sale of Canadian paintings (the record of $8.49 million was set by the same saleroom last fall!). Money was flowing like sap from a Maple tree as lot after lot sold within, or more accurately, well above estimate. It almost seemed out of control. As if everyone – but me! – had been given monopoly money to play with such was the intensity, rapidity and ultimate extent of the bidding on almost every lot.
The sale got off to a great start with a bid of $23,000 for a W.J. Phillips watercolour of the Rocky Mountains, estimated at $6/9000 and didn’t look back from there. A bid of $63,250 was taken for Kathleen Moir Morris’s Market Day, Ottawa, a 10” x 13” panel estimated at $35/45,000, and $103,500 was bid for David Milne’s Clouds, Blue Sky, Six Mile Lake, a 12” x 14” canvas from 1933 estimated at $45/65,000. The same price was paid for the artist’s Canoe and Fireplace, Six Mile Lake, 12” x 16”, while Tom Thomson’s watercolour Stormy Weather more than doubled its estimate with a bid of $31,625.
By the time the sale had reached lot 20 the saleroom had already amassed a healthy $1,139,765. Included in this total was a bid of $218,500 for Helen McNicoll’s Mother and Child Picking Berries, 22” x 21”, estimated at $60/80,000, $97,750 for Clarence Gagnon’s Blueberry Picking, an 8” x 8.5” tempera on board estimated at $30/40,000 and no less than four works by Cornelius Krieghoff. All found buyers, with the best being An Incident in a Winter Blizzard, 11” x 20” taking a bid of $103,500.
By the Lake, another canvas from Helen McNicoll, this time 20” x 24”, fetched a double-high-estimate $126,500 followed by a record setting canvas from Albert Henry Robinson (illustrated upper right). St. Tite des Caps, a 22” x 26” urban winter landscape with figures sawing logs soared to a new high for the artist when it was knocked down for $290,000 ($333,500 with premium). Painted in 1928, it was estimated at $100/150,000. Robinson’s Goelettes in the Ice, Baie St. Paul 27” x 33” from 1927 fetched a mid-estimate $138,000.
Maurice Cullen’s Cape Diamond, Quebec was another strong performer. The 18” x 29” canvas, circa 1899, sold for $287,500, well above its $100/150,000 expectations. Frederick Varley’s Arctic Icebergs, 12” x 15”, found a buyer at $138,000, double its mid estimate, while a Lawren Harris Mountain Sketch, Van Horne Range XIII, 12” x 15” briefly set a new record for a sketch by the artist when it was knocked down for $287,500 against a $100/150,000 estimate. The record was shattered a week later at Joyners in Toronto (see separate report).
A Harris record that did stand was the $375,000 ($431,250 with premium) paid for an abstract work by the artist. Abstraction 119, a 57.5” x 47” canvas, circa 1945, was the subject of a heated battle that quickly eclipsed its $70/90,000 estimate.
Staying with records, there was the $230,000 ($264,500 with premium) paid for a Franklin Carmichael watercolour. Port Coldwell Bay, 17” x 21” from 1928 was estimated at $80/120,000.
Among the many other interesting prices in this sale was a bid of $80,500 for William Kurelek’s Near Dawson Creek, a 47.5” x 49” mixed media estimated at $25/35,000. Bess Larkin Harris’s Old Mine Shaft, 32” x 40” set a new record for the artist when it sold for $45,000 ($51,750 with premium) against expectations of $4/6000, while Franz Johnston’s Spruce Sentinels, Algoma a 22” x 16” tempera on paperboard more than doubled its high estimate with a bid of $46,000.
Any report on this saleroom would not be complete without mentioning at least once the work of Emily Carr. In this instance the piece to be mentioned is Summer Mount Douglas a 36” x 24” oil on paperboard from 1942 estimated at $125/175,000. Frenzied bidding meant the new owner had to pay $431,250 to secure the lot!
The saleroom has also become synonymous with the work of E.J. Hughes. As a result of the astonishing record for the artist set last fall it was not surprising that several pieces turned up for sale in this auction. Although Low Tide, Qualicum, 20” x 26” was expected to be the artist’s top seller, and it did well with a bid of $207,000 against a $125/175,000 estimate, it was Departure Bay, 32” x 40” estimated at $100/150,000 that stole the show when it was finally hammered down for an impressive $287,500.
We cannot close this report without mentioning the record price of $230,000 ($264,500 with premium) paid for Alex Colville’s Woman with Skiff, a 17” x 38” acrylic polymer emulsion on board, estimated at $125/175,000, and the double mid estimate price of $138,000 paid for Paul-Emile Borduas’ Jardin d’Hiver a 13’ x 16” canvas painted circa 1955.