Saturday, November 9, 2019

Art auction at Heffel

Two auctions are scheduled later this month at the Toronto branch of Heffel, the fine art auction house: one of post-war and contemporary art and another of Canadian, impressionist and modern art.

The works that will be up for bidding have been previewed in Calgary, Vancouver, and Montreal, and I was lucky enough to spend some time at the Montreal preview this weekend. (The preview continues today, 11 am - 6 pm.)

The Heffel building, located on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal's Golden Square Mile, has some beautiful features, including an impressive hand-carved interior staircase, ornate ceiling mouldings, and stained glass windows.

The star attraction of the event is Femme au Chapeau, by Pablo Picasso. It is expected to sell for $8 - $10 million Canadian. Its subject is Dora Maar, and it is said that her portrayal here embodies the conflict and angst of the artist while living in Paris during the German occupation.

Femme au Chapeau, Pablo Picasso, 1941
oil on canvas, 24 x 14 7/8 in

Four works by the Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle will be offered for sale at the auction. The most impressive of these, shown below, is expected to sell for about $1 million Canadian.

Untitled, Jean-Paul Riopelle, 1955
oil on canvas, 24 3/4 x 80 3/4"

Heffel has provided much background information about the various works on its website, as well as in several small printed catalogs. The website offers visitors the chance to zoom in on the details of each painting. Here is a description of Riopelle's technique, as described by a contemporary:
"I will never forget this scene. First, he did not paint with a brush but rather with what looked like a putty knife. Second, judging by the hundreds of empty tubes that lay at his feet, he was using a phenomenal quantity of paint. He did not unscrew his tubes. He decapitated them in one move with his knife without ever using the cap. Red, blue, or green: the colours appeared suddenly at the tip of his fingers. Because that is how he was doing it: he held all the tubes (say three or four or as many as his hand could hold) in his fist and then either poured them directly on the canvas or managed to have one colour mixing with the next by pressing the tubes in a certain way." 

Karlukwees, BC, Walter Joseph Phillips, 1929
woodcut on paper, 10 1/2 x 12 1/2"

Other Canadian artists to be featured in the sale include Emily Carr,  A.J. Casson, Alexander Colville, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, William Kurelek, Jean-Paul Lemieux, Arthur Lismer, David Milne, James Wilson Morrice, Robert Wakeham Pilot and Christopher Pratt.

La Seigneurie / Le manoir, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1973
oil on canvas, 16 3/4 x 26 3/4"

The preview is a rare opportunity to see so much high-quality work mounted in just a few small rooms. I look forward to reading a report on the auction, taking place November 20, 2019. The event will also be live-streamed.

Several more days of preview are scheduled at the Design Exchange, 234 Bay Street, Toronto, November 15 - 20. For details, go to the auction website.

Morning on the Inlet, A.J. Casson, 1959
oil on board, 24 x 45"

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