Have a chance to own your own Peter Clapham Sheppard paintings from the following auctions.
Waddington’s Canadian Fine Art Auction
PETER CLAPHAM SHEPPARD, O.S.A., R.C.A.
ELIZABETH STREET, TORONTO
oil on canvas
signed; with the estate stamp on the reverse
30 ins x 36 ins; 73.7 cms x 88.9 cms
Remarkably, it is only quite recently that the work of Peter Clapham Sheppard (1882-1965) has attracted significant interest of a broader group of serious collectors of important Canadian Art. The reason for this is typically ascribed to the massive shadow cast by his contemporaries, the Group of Seven, who for decades were considered Canada’s greatest fine art innovators, founders of our nationalist school of painting. However, that notion was being challenged even as it was being formulated. When F.B. Housser’s book A Canadian Art Movement was published in 1926, artist W.J. Phillips responded by explaining: “(The Group of Seven) have had a great deal of advertisement, but it generally has been at the expense of other painters.” … “Those of the Seven that I know intimately do not regard their works as the absolute perfection…The comparatives, exaggerated eulogisms, and drastic condemnations (of other art) comes from the less enlightened layman who considers himself a critic”. Nonetheless, the unintended, decades-long consequence of the mythologizing of the Group was that other talented Canadian artists in Ontario and beyond were overshadowed, leaving a dramatic gap in the scholarship.
More recently the space taken up by the Group has ceded some territory to new scholarship whose aim it is to examine those artists – those working outside the major city centres, women artists and First Nations art makers - who were perhaps within the Group’s orbit but who had essentially been relegated to the B team. P.C. Sheppard is now the subject of a major monograph by respected writer, curator and art historian, Tom Smart, whose book on Sheppard was released this fall. Smart argues that artists such as Sheppard “through no fault of their own, and not through the quality of their art, drifted from public consciousness and were forgotten.” Smart’s new publication is an attempt to redress this.
The group of Toronto Ward paintings produced by Sheppard, of which this lot is one of his finest, were executed at the beginning of the 1930s. Sheppard had painted the cities of Montreal and New York a few years earlier. Upon returning to Toronto, he turned his eye to a relatively poor neighbourhood rich in subject matter that had also attracted Lawren Harris who himself had immortalized the subject. Like Harris, Sheppard sought to capture the Ward's “gritty working class streets (particularly Louisa and Elizabeth Streets), alleys, houses and shacks as portraits of resilient survival in places defined by transition and impoverishment.”
Smart notes that Sheppard’s composition of Elizabeth Street: "juxtaposes the domestic and commercial nature of the subject... the row of hardscrabble houses and businesses cobbled together, weighted down by the heavy burden of snowfall as well as by the looming towers of the commercial district beyond.” In the distance, Sheppard incorporates a newly minted skyline featuring the “looming” outline of the fifteen storey, beaux-arts style beauty, the Canada Life Building, whose construction started in 1929 and was completed in 1931.
Smart notes that the composition of Elizabeth Street uses a device that Sheppard established while painting in New York. “The composition divides the format horizontally in two ranks: above the divide is an anonymous cityscape of towering commercial buildings and skyscrapers, while below is the urban hurly-burly of boisterous activity, horse and carriage traffic and pedestrians.” Smart further notes that “contrasts abound in the painting between the natural and the built: the human-scaled houses and the gargantuan commercial buildings; snow and stone; geometric and lyrical lines.” Smart also maintains that it is large format paintings, such as this lot, “that give wider fields for Sheppard to display his talent and imagination as he interpreted the rapid industrial and social growth” of cities like Toronto. The result is that Elizabeth Street is a tour de force of expression, making great use of an array of colour (mauve, violet, plum, alabaster, almond, oyster, ruby, crimson, scarlett, canary, amber, teal) and brushstroke.
Copies of Tom Smart’s new publication, “Peter Clapham Sheppard: His Life and Work”, are available for purchase from Waddington’s during our auction preview and sale.
Charles C. Hill, The Group of Seven: Art for a Nation, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1995, page 169.
Tom Smart, Peter Clapham Sheppard: His Life and Work, Firefly Books, Richmond Hill 2018, pages 25, 28, 135, 208, page 189, for a detail of this lot, reproduced in colour, as the frontispiece for Chapter 5: Toronto, page 214 for the closely related watercolour of Elizabeth Street, 1930-31 on which this canvas is based, reproduced in colour, page 217 for a discussion of this work, and page 220, for this lot reproduced in colour.
Estate of the artist
Private Collection, Toronto
61st Annual OSA Exhibition, Ontario Society of Artists, Art Gallery of Toronto, 1933.
Department: Canadian Fine Art
CanadianArt Magazine Presents
NEWS / NOVEMBER 22, 2018
Heffel, Waddington's and Consignor all held their major fall auctions this week. Here are some of the highlights
Kenojuak Ashevak's Enchanted Owl broke the Canadian print auction record at a Waddington's auction this week. Image: Courtesy Waddington's.
by Leah Sandals
Several records were broken at Canada’s big fall art auctions this week in Toronto. Some of the records were for novelty or rarity paintings, some were for rising market names, and others were for iconic Canadian artists. Overall, says Waddington’s VP Stephen Ranger of what he observed at his house’s two auctions, “the results point to a continued resiliency of the Canadian art market…. Despite the fact that the stock markets took a beating this week, we had a full room, with very active and assertive bidding.”
This fall season has also seen the rise, in and out of auction, of the profile of Peter Clapham Sheppard. This Group of Seven–adjacent artist created mainly urban-focused paintings that until recently have been somewhat overlooked. That is changing with the publication of a book, Peter Clapham Sheppard, authored by Beaverbrook Art Gallery director Tom Smart and supported by Sheppard collector Louis Gagliardi.
A world auction record for a painting by Peter Clapham Sheppard was set at the Waddington’s Canadian Art Auction on November 19. It was for his painting Elizabeth Street of the early 1930s, which depicts a downtown Toronto scene. The painting went for $204,000 hammer price, at least four times its initial estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
That initial Sheppard estimate was “one-twentieth of what would be assigned to a comparably sized [Lawren] Harris canvas of the Ward [neighbourhood in Toronto],” art historian Gregory Humeniuk wrote in theGlobe and Mail in advance of Elizabeth Street’s auction. He added: “In today’s art market, a truly significant work by him plays well to the rule of thumb that it’s better to buy an A work by a B artist, than to buy a B work by an A artist.”
Peter Clapham Sheppard's 1930s painting Elizabeth Street set a new record for the artist at the Waddington's auction. Image: Courtesy Waddington's.
Leah Sandals is news and special sections editor at Canadian Art. A graduate of NSCAD University and McGill University, she has also written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail. She welcomes tips, corrections and comments any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consignor Canadian Fine Art
oil on canvas
signed lower right; estate stamp (LG1919) on the stretcher; dated circa 1919 on an estate label on the reverse of the framing
21.25 x 17 ins ( 54 x 43.2 cms )
Estimated: $9,000.00 - $12,000.00
Estate of the artist
Private Collection, Ontario
Tom Smart, Peter Clapham Sheppard: His Life and Work, Richmond Hill, Ontario, 2018, reproduced page 137
A Toronto native, Peter Clapham Sheppard occupies a place in Canadian art history among a generation of artists that established a distinctively Canadian school of art. While the painter studied, sketched and exhibited alongside members of the Group of Seven, Sheppard found inspiration in more broad subject matter, including landscapes, portraits, still lifes, city and harbour scenes. Sheppard bore witness to the steady construction and urbanization that took place in Canadian and American cities during the first half of the twentieth century, which inspired much of his artistic oeuvre. In this regard, Sheppard saw himself as better aligned with the contemporaneous American society of artists known as the Eight, and later the Ashcan School. Members of these groups depicted the bustling streets of New York City in a colourful, expressive and anti-academic manner. Sheppard exemplifies this approach in many of his urban scenes of the early 1920s, including paintings of Toronto, Montreal, New York City, and in this instance, Atlantic City. The vibrant canvas “The Boardwalk, Atlantic City” (1922) embodies these anti-aesthetic intentions in its decorative colour palette and contemporary reflection of middle-class urban life. Author and art historian Tom Smart writes in his recent book on Sheppard that “[i]n artistic terms, Sheppard identified with human subjects in gritty urban settings.” Smart elaborates further on Sheppard’s talent in painting city scenes, remarking that he “captured an essential liveliness, apparently easily, gesture and rhythms of line and colour simulate as if by magic the cacophony and harmonies of his subjects.”
P.C. Sheppard was captivated by subjects involving a human presence, particularly crowds in city streets, markets, county fairs, circuses and harbour scenes. In many of these artworks, the artist illustrates the stark contrast between humans and the sublime landscape or the power of industrialization. Tom Smart comments on this theme present in “The Boardwalk, Atlantic City” and similar works of the early 1920s, remarking that Sheppard “explores the dichotomy between human-scaled objects and the almighty dehumanization of the modern city.” The author points out the “two-ranked composition in the boardwalk” of this vibrant canvas, and describes it as “a painting that recalls the ambitions of arrival of the circus with its heavily populated foreground overshadowed by an elevated avenue separating the maelstrom from the built structures looming over everything.”
A copy of “Peter Clapham Sheppard: His Life and Work”, the 2018 book devoted to the artist and within which this artwork is reproduced, is included with this lot.
Sale Date: November 20th 2018