Toronto (15BP) – Joyner Waddington’s two-day sale of Canadian art December 6 & 7 was very much a story of three exceptional paintings and one buyer, despite an overall sales total of around $5 million and a selling rate of more than 81% (85% on the first night). There was also an intriguing subplot that saw continuing strength in the modern and contemporary sectors of the market. The three paintings that basically dominated the sale however, and produced the three top prices, were works by Lawren Harris, Tom Thomson and J.W. Morrice.
The Harris, a 12” x 15” sketch of Bylot Island (illustrated right) from his Arctic Sketches series and completed in the 1930s fetched an impressive $433,100 against expectations of $200/250,000. Tom Thomson’s Canoe and Lake, Algonquin Park, a 7” x 10” canvas laid on panel and painted circa 1912-13, just four years before the artist died, picked up a bid of $369,600 against an $80/100,000 estimate. The Morrice was a 24” x 32” canvas entitled Sailing Boats that was consigned from Germany and carried a pre-sale estimate of $250/300,000. It sold just below expectations with a bid of $230,000.
All three paintings were purchased by Canada’s wealthiest man and most prominent art collector, Mr. Ken Thomson. His total bill for the evening - $1,032,700…plus taxes!
I remember reading an article on Mr. Thomson after he purchased the Lawren Harris canvas of Baffin Island in 2001 for $2.2 million plus premium. The article said that the purchase price represented to Mr. Thomson the same out of pocket expense that a can of Coke and a packet of cigarettes would to the average Canadian. If this is so his little fling at Joyners in December, while great for the Canadian art market, meant little more to him in terms of capital depletion than the purchase of a cold beverage would to you and I. Interesting isn’t it?
Back to the sale! Of course, with almost $5million changing hands there were a lot more than three paintings worthy of discussion as the contemporary market was quick to point out. Picking up a matching bid to the Morrice of $230,000 was Jean-Paul Lemieux’ Soleil Froid, a 10” x 68” canvas from 1968 that was estimated at $175/200,000. Another work from Lemieux, this time Les Appartements Stanford, 42” x 26” sold mid estimate for $161,000.
Also selling mid estimate was Jean-Paul Riopelle’s Le Cirque, a 28.5” x 36” canvas from 1954 which found a buyer at $184,000. Finding its low estimate was Riopelle’s Rouge, a 51” x 64” canvas from 1964 that picked up a bid of $149,500. The only other painting to top the $100,000 mark, with buyer’s premium, was another Riopelle, this time Dans le Parc, a 21.5” x 28.5” canvas from 1959 that fetched $109,250 against a $60/80,000 estimate.
There were several other prices of note in this sale including a bid of $48,300 for Arthur Lismer’s Port Coldwell, Lake Superior, a 13” x 16” sketch from 1926 estimated at $15/20,000, and Anne Savage’s The Poppy, a 24” x 20” canvas that found a buyer at $36,800, well above its $10/12,000 estimate. Scoring a hit for the increasingly more popular Painters Eleven group of artists was Jack Bush's Leap on Blue from 1976 that found a buyer at $55,200, well above its $20/30,000 estimate.
A Frank H. Johnston oil on board, 13” x 10” from 1918 entitled Green and Silver, Algoma really impressed when it fetched $69,000, more than three times its high estimate, while a large 31.5” x 41” John Hammond canvas from 1893 of Fishing Boats, Bay of Fundy soared to $23,000 against an estimate of $4/6000.
Also worthy of note are three watercolours by William Armstrong. Split Rock Portage, Nepigon (sic) and Indians Preparing to Portage each measured 5.5” x 10.5” and carried similar estimates of $15/2000 each. They also sold alike, each taking a bid of $8050. From H. Bay Post, Red Rock, Nipigon (sic), 9.5” x 14” did even better with a bid of $11,500 against a $15/2000 estimate.