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Auction of Important Canadian Art With Ritchie's
Lawren Harris, Algoma Hill (detail), 1920.
TORONTO, CANADA.-Sotheby’s Canada, in association with Ritchies, is pleased to announce details of their fall sale of Important Canadian Art, to be held in Toronto on Monday, November 21st, 2005, at 10:30 a.m. The sale, featuring 224 lots, is expected to fetch $5.9 million to $8 million, the highest yet for Sotheby's, in association with Ritchies, 38 years in the Canadian market and the highest value per lot among Canadian auction houses.

The sale will be held at Ritchies salesroom at 288 King Street East in Toronto and exhibitions of highlights will be held in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, beginning November 3rd.

“Our aim to present quality works across a broad range of artists accounts for our strong presentation this fall,” commented David P. Silcox, President of Sotheby’s Canada.

“Discerning collectors are looking for works of quality, reasonably estimated, and there is a wealth of material in this sale from which they may choose," added Senior Executive Vice-President of Sotheby's International and auctioneer, C. Hugh Hildesley.

From a private collection, a group of impressive Krieghoffs will be offered, the finest to come to auction in over a decade. Most notable among them is Krieghoff’s portrait of John Budden, his longtime friend and patron, and one of the most important portraits of 19th century Canada. It is estimated to fetch $200,000-300,000. Budden was a partner in the Montreal auction house of A.J. Maxham and Company, and both Budden and his firm helped to establish Krieghoff as the most widely collected artist of his time. Eight other Krieghoffs of superior quality are part of this consignment.

We are also pleased to offer the final portion of property from the Collection of the late R. Fraser Elliott, O.C., one of Canada’s foremost collectors, and someone whose activities and benefactions in the cultural world of Canada are legendary. His acquisition of Canadian art spanned many years, and his selections of work by Canadian masters were outstanding.

Two David Milne canvases from his Palgrave period and a Lawren Harris mountain sketch are but examples among his discriminating choices. Featured on the catalogue cover is Robert Clow Todd’s highly rare work, Sledges and Figures Skating on the Frozen Lake in Front of Montmorency Falls ($175,000-250,000). Since the late 18th century, the Montmorency Ice Cone near Quebec City had been a favourite subject for artists captivated by its unusual beauty. Todd's training as a decorative artist and sign painter shows in his attention to minute detail, and the overall precision with which this particular work was painted. There are only about six Todd paintings of Montmorency Falls known, and this one was discovered in a Scottish estate, where it had been for many years.

One of the stars of the auction is Lawren Harris’s magisterial Algoma Hill, which depicts a scene near Mitchell Lake, Batchewana, and incorporates a castle-like hill of rock. Algoma Hill was a pivotal work for Harris; it advanced his artistic vision and inspired his later work in other Canadian locations. Painted in 1920, the work measures 46 x 54 in. and is estimated to bring $800,000-1.2 million. Two other major canvases by Harris will also be up on the block – Row of Six Houses, Backview, City Painting III ($400,000-600,000), one of the artist’s depictions of modest houses in an urban landscape in winter, and a key transitional, quasi-abstract work of circa 1938 entitled Annunciation ($125,000 – 175,000).

J.E.H. MacDonald’s, Spruce and Maple, Algoma ($100,000-150,000), is an exciting offering, since MacDonald’s paintings of Algoma are extremely scarce and rarely come to auction. This exceptionally fine work was painted in 1919, just a year before the formation of the Group of Seven, when MacDonald was on the second "Group of Seven box car trip" to Algoma with Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson and Frank Johnston. The artists lived in a railway boxcar, which was shunted from siding to siding as they painted in the Algoma district for several weeks that autumn. It was the Algoma landscape, above all others, that inspired MacDonald; in these paintings, more than any other period of his work, he was able to express his ideals more forcefully than at any other time. This stunning oil sketch may have been among several that MacDonald put in the first Group of Seven exhibition in May, 1920.

A major work by J.W. Morrice Tanger, La Ville, last seen in 1926, has emerged from a private collection in Morocco, where it was painted in the winter of 1912-13, when Morrice was spending a second winter there with Henri Matisse. Although they worked independently during the day, the two artists fraternized over drinks at cafes and spent long evenings together over dinner, during which art was undoubtedly much discussed. Tanger, La Ville ($175,000-225,000) was one of four Moroccan subjects exhibited in the 1913 Paris Salon d'Automne. Something of Matisse's love of patterning shows in Morrice's treatment of the buildings of Tangiers in this strong and evocative canvas.

Two strong works by the pillars of Quebec's artistic revolution at mid-twentieth century are a brilliant 1954 canvas, Abstract Composition ($250,000-350,000), by Jean-Paul Riopelle, and an equally powerful 1956 work, Cascade Verticale ($80,000 – 100,000), by PaulÉmile Borduas. The Riopelle is from the period for which he is best known and which earned him a permanent and deserved place in the post-war school of Paris. After setting a record for Marc-Auréle Fortin in our last sale, we now offer several major works by this here-to-fore underestimated artist. The most striking is March Snow, Quebec, another showstopper, estimated to bring $150,000-200,000. This work is from the 1930s, when Fortin was painting on a black background, which gave a new depth and richness to his Quebec landscapes. Also included is a fine canvas once presented to Charles de Gaulle, President of France, when he visited Canada in 1967.

Among contemporary works, in which Sotheby's in association with Ritchies has been a leader, are major works by Jack Bush, Ron Martin, Michael Snow, Claude Tousignant, Christopher Pratt, Gordon Smith, Guido Molinari, and Richard Gorman. Jack Bush’s talent is well represented with the vibrant April Blue Green ($50,000-70,000), and Encounter, painted in 1955, when Bush was a member of Painters Eleven and his painting had reached a maturity and power that was distinctively his own.

Public exhibitions will be held in Montreal at Ritchies, 1980 Sherbrooke Street West, on Friday, November 4th from noon to 7pm; Vancouver at the Fairmont Hotel on Monday, November 7th from 2-5 pm; and finally at Ritchies in Toronto from November 18th-20th. The Calgary reception and showing is by invitation only. For further information or to order a catalogue, please call Sotheby's in Toronto at 416-926-1774 (800-263-1774), or Ritchies Auctioneers in Toronto at 416-364-1864 (800-364-3210) or Montreal at 514-934-1864.

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