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LOT 027

Edward John (E.J.) Hughes

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BCSFA CGP OC RCA
1913 - 2007
Canadian

Mouth of the Courtenay River
watercolour on paper
signed and dated 2003 and on verso signed, titled, dated and inscribed "J.B. acquired on April 12, 2003 our 45th wedding anniversary"
22 3/4 x 30 1/4 in, 57.8 x 76.8 cm

CAD

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

PROVENANCE
Acquired directly from the Artist, 2003
Barbeau Owen Foundation Collection, Vancouver

LITERATURE
Ian M. Thom, E.J. Hughes, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2002, the related 1952 oil Mouth of the Courtenay River reproduced page 109
Jacques Barbeau, A Journey with E.J. Hughes, 2005, reproduced page 110 and listed page 168
Jacques Barbeau, E.J. Hughes through the Decades: The Paintings, 1936 – 2006, 2012, reproduced page 79
Robert Amos, The E.J. Hughes Book of Boats, 2020, reproduced page 35

In 1942, Emily Carr appointed William A. Newcombe and Lawren Harris as the trustees of her pictures. She selected paintings to be given to the people of British Columbia and the remainder were later sold through the Dominion Gallery in Montreal. Money from the sales was used for a scholarship for BC artists.[1] In 1947, at the recommendation of Harris, E.J. Hughes was awarded the Emily Carr scholarship.

Upon receiving the $1,200 prize, in the summer of 1947 Hughes traveled on the CPR ship the Princess Adelaide to Prince Rupert. In 1948, with the remaining money, he traveled by bus up the east coast of Vancouver Island, visiting Chemainus, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Gabriola Island, Qualicum Beach and Courtenay. On this trip he made a number of sketches that served him throughout his long career. While staying at Courtenay, the most northerly point of his travels, he hiked east towards Comox and from there drew scenes that became some of his most famous paintings.

Looking across the busy mouth of the Courtenay River, Hughes sketched a view that a few years later, in 1952, translated into an oil painting. When he painted the oil, he was living at 425 John Street in Victoria and was, according to Ian Thom, “at the peak of his skills.” Thom described this 1952 painting as “a considered and carefully balanced work, with colour used strategically to keep the eye moving across the image.”[2]

Mouth of the Courtenay River depicts the view from the Comox side of Comox Harbour, looking west towards the mountains of the Forbidden Plateau. In the middle distance, rays of sunlight spotlight the farmlands of the Comox Valley. Taking centre stage, a single fishing boat tows a dinghy up the estuary. By the wheelhouse a watchful man steers the boat as it chugs along at the end of a day. In the stern, a seated woman in a shawl and a black-haired child look towards the mountains.

In the distance the snowy peaks of the Beaufort Range are set off by a vast heavy cloud, a bold contrast to the light that illuminates the farms. Horizontal ripples along the river advance towards the foreground, accented by vertical pilings that serve to keep floating logs away from the shore. Standing in rhythmic sequence, they guard the quiet homesteads beyond.

When he reached 80 years of age, Hughes was no longer able to stand at his easel for the long periods required to paint his large canvases. So, from 1993, he devoted himself exclusively to painting in watercolour. While some consider this medium a minor art form, Hughes was able to build on a lifetime of practice and now he gave it his full attention. Not for him the opaque effects of gouache or the tricks of a scraped surface. He achieved great tonal power and the radiant colours of his superbly balanced compositions by the virtuoso use of paints that are inherently transparent. He was well aware of the orchestral range of his greatest oils, but now concentrated on the exquisite chamber music of this prolonged series of watercolours. Many are intimate versions of his most engaging subjects.

Mouth of the Courtenay River (2003) is one of the finest of Hughes’s watercolours. The sonorous colours are a result of the patient application of many layers of paint. The deeply satisfying composition is the result of a studied precision of form rather than a “happy accident.” Among Canadian watercolourists, the free play of David Milne and the spacious breadth of Franklin Carmichael are justly appreciated, and the powerful mixed technique of Marc-Aurèle Fortin is unrivalled. But, at his best, the quiet purity of the watercolours of E.J. Hughes stands alone.

We thank Robert Amos, artist and writer from Victoria, BC, for contributing the above essay. Amos is the official biographer of Hughes and has so far published four books on his work. Building on the archives of Pat Salmon, Amos is at work on a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work.

1. Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher, Emily Carr: The Untold Story (Saanichton, BC: Hancock House, 1978), 157.

2. Ian M. Thom, E.J. Hughes (Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, in assoc. with Douglas & McIntyre, 2002), exhibition catalogue, 108.

For the biography on Jacques Barbeau and Margaret Owen Barbeau in PDF format please click here.

Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.

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Canada
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[ translate ]

BCSFA CGP OC RCA
1913 - 2007
Canadian

Mouth of the Courtenay River
watercolour on paper
signed and dated 2003 and on verso signed, titled, dated and inscribed "J.B. acquired on April 12, 2003 our 45th wedding anniversary"
22 3/4 x 30 1/4 in, 57.8 x 76.8 cm

CAD

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

PROVENANCE
Acquired directly from the Artist, 2003
Barbeau Owen Foundation Collection, Vancouver

LITERATURE
Ian M. Thom, E.J. Hughes, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2002, the related 1952 oil Mouth of the Courtenay River reproduced page 109
Jacques Barbeau, A Journey with E.J. Hughes, 2005, reproduced page 110 and listed page 168
Jacques Barbeau, E.J. Hughes through the Decades: The Paintings, 1936 – 2006, 2012, reproduced page 79
Robert Amos, The E.J. Hughes Book of Boats, 2020, reproduced page 35

In 1942, Emily Carr appointed William A. Newcombe and Lawren Harris as the trustees of her pictures. She selected paintings to be given to the people of British Columbia and the remainder were later sold through the Dominion Gallery in Montreal. Money from the sales was used for a scholarship for BC artists.[1] In 1947, at the recommendation of Harris, E.J. Hughes was awarded the Emily Carr scholarship.

Upon receiving the $1,200 prize, in the summer of 1947 Hughes traveled on the CPR ship the Princess Adelaide to Prince Rupert. In 1948, with the remaining money, he traveled by bus up the east coast of Vancouver Island, visiting Chemainus, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Gabriola Island, Qualicum Beach and Courtenay. On this trip he made a number of sketches that served him throughout his long career. While staying at Courtenay, the most northerly point of his travels, he hiked east towards Comox and from there drew scenes that became some of his most famous paintings.

Looking across the busy mouth of the Courtenay River, Hughes sketched a view that a few years later, in 1952, translated into an oil painting. When he painted the oil, he was living at 425 John Street in Victoria and was, according to Ian Thom, “at the peak of his skills.” Thom described this 1952 painting as “a considered and carefully balanced work, with colour used strategically to keep the eye moving across the image.”[2]

Mouth of the Courtenay River depicts the view from the Comox side of Comox Harbour, looking west towards the mountains of the Forbidden Plateau. In the middle distance, rays of sunlight spotlight the farmlands of the Comox Valley. Taking centre stage, a single fishing boat tows a dinghy up the estuary. By the wheelhouse a watchful man steers the boat as it chugs along at the end of a day. In the stern, a seated woman in a shawl and a black-haired child look towards the mountains.

In the distance the snowy peaks of the Beaufort Range are set off by a vast heavy cloud, a bold contrast to the light that illuminates the farms. Horizontal ripples along the river advance towards the foreground, accented by vertical pilings that serve to keep floating logs away from the shore. Standing in rhythmic sequence, they guard the quiet homesteads beyond.

When he reached 80 years of age, Hughes was no longer able to stand at his easel for the long periods required to paint his large canvases. So, from 1993, he devoted himself exclusively to painting in watercolour. While some consider this medium a minor art form, Hughes was able to build on a lifetime of practice and now he gave it his full attention. Not for him the opaque effects of gouache or the tricks of a scraped surface. He achieved great tonal power and the radiant colours of his superbly balanced compositions by the virtuoso use of paints that are inherently transparent. He was well aware of the orchestral range of his greatest oils, but now concentrated on the exquisite chamber music of this prolonged series of watercolours. Many are intimate versions of his most engaging subjects.

Mouth of the Courtenay River (2003) is one of the finest of Hughes’s watercolours. The sonorous colours are a result of the patient application of many layers of paint. The deeply satisfying composition is the result of a studied precision of form rather than a “happy accident.” Among Canadian watercolourists, the free play of David Milne and the spacious breadth of Franklin Carmichael are justly appreciated, and the powerful mixed technique of Marc-Aurèle Fortin is unrivalled. But, at his best, the quiet purity of the watercolours of E.J. Hughes stands alone.

We thank Robert Amos, artist and writer from Victoria, BC, for contributing the above essay. Amos is the official biographer of Hughes and has so far published four books on his work. Building on the archives of Pat Salmon, Amos is at work on a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work.

1. Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher, Emily Carr: The Untold Story (Saanichton, BC: Hancock House, 1978), 157.

2. Ian M. Thom, E.J. Hughes (Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, in assoc. with Douglas & McIntyre, 2002), exhibition catalogue, 108.

For the biography on Jacques Barbeau and Margaret Owen Barbeau in PDF format please click here.

Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.

[ translate ]
Sale price
Unlock
Estimate
Unlock
Time, Location
23 Nov 2023
Canada
Auction House
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