River Pastures, Gull River, 1921
Inscriptionssigned and dated, ‘JM’/ 21 (lower left); titled, signed and dated by the artist, ‘Gull River / J.E.H. MacD. / ‘21 / River Pastures / J.E.H. MacDonald / 1921’ (verso, centre)
Laing Fine Art Galleries Limited., Toronto, circa 1950.
Private collection, Montreal;
By descent to the present owners.
E.R. Hunter, J.E.H. MacDonald A Biography & Catalogue of his Work (Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1940) pp.26-27, 54;
Nancy E. Robertson, J.E.H. MacDonald, R.C.A., 1873-1932 (Toronto: Art Gallery of Toronto, 1965) p. 41;
Paul Duval, The Tangled Garden (Scarborough: Cerebrus/Prentice-Hall, 1978) p. 141;
Robert Stacey, “Chronology and Selected References,” in Robert Stacey/Hunter Bishop, J.E.H. MacDonald Designer (Ottawa: Archives of Canadian Art an imprint of Carleton University Press, 1996) p. 121.
Paul Duval informs us that MacDonald spent his summer 1921 holiday visiting a former co-worker from the design firm Grip Ltd., where the future members of the Group of Seven had first met before the First World War. Fred Peel lived at Coboconk on the Gull River and owned a lumber mill and cottage nearby. While initially developed by the lumber industry, the area had since been cleared of trees allowing the growth of pastures and farms. River Pastures, Gull River is a lyrical sketch painted in a delightful palette of greens and oranges. The rocky foreground bears evidence of the thinness of the soil covering, though sufficient for grazing cattle, visible amidst the trees in the middle ground.
Grazing cattle on the Gull River was the subject of two of MacDonald’s canvases, Cattle by the Creek of 1918 (National Gallery of Canada) and River Pastures, Gull River of 1922. In both canvases the foreground is occupied by water and the trees and cattle are arranged across the middle of the composition in a horizontal band. E.R. Hunter, author of the early biography of J.E.H. MacDonald, described River Pastures, Gull River as “a symphony in green” with “a balanced unity of all the parts.”
From a label on the verso we can deduce that this sketch was acquired by Laing Fine Art Galleries around the time of its move from 60 Bloor Street East to 194 Bloor Street West in 1950.
Charles C. Hill for Alan Klinkhoff Gallery
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