BlogJanuary 5, 2009

A Closer Look at Robert Pilot’s Vivid "Golden Autumn, Sillery" (1931)


Robert Pilot's

Robert Pilot, Golden Autumn, Sillery, 1931, oil on canvas.

Exhibited: There is another version of this composition in the Musée du Québec; Golden Autumn, Sillery, 1931 Oil on canvas, 18" x 24" . .


This painting, Golden Autumn, Sillery from 1931,  serves to honour both the 110th anniversary of the birth of Robert W. Pilot who at age 54 was to become President of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts and Pilot’s admiration for the City of Quebec, this year celebrating the 400th year since its founding, the city where he found important material to paint through countless visits and stays, returning regularly for over four decades.


Robert Pilot was a young Newfoundlander living in Montreal when at 12 years of age his widowed mother married the Newfoundland born artist Maurice Cullen who was prominent in Montreal art circles. Dr T.R. MacDonald wrote in the catalogue of the 1968 Robert Pilot retrospective exhibition held at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of Canada that even as a high school student Pilot sketched in the evenings and week ends in Cullen's studio.


Then MacDonald cites the tutelage of William Brymner at the Royal Canadian Academy evening classes Pilot attended and then his influence as Principal of the classes at the Art Association of Montreal that continued to further Pilot's important artistic development. Then, of course, working alongside Cullen and ultimately moving into his old studio in the Studio Building Alfred Laliberté owned on Ste-Famille Street where he was in the company of other mature artists, the experience reinforced his enthusiasm and promoted his artistic abilities.


He exhibited in the first Group of Seven exhibition as one of three invited guests living in Montreal, including also Albert Robinson and Randolph Hewton who were not members of the Toronto based Group. Looking at his oeuvre one remarks that although Pilot left us a rich legacy of landscape painting, unlike the Group he may have been more intrigued in the urban areas and their architectural compositional elements. Ongoing academic study underwritten by at least two museums will likely show a closer relationship of Robert Pilot to Montreal’s Beaver Hall Hill Group of artists, a group with which he exhibited in the early 1920s.


If only because the vivid autumn colours in their full glory are so fleeting, slow to mature and then so quick to disappear, Pilot’s autumn scenes are perhaps somewhat less known than his equally magnificent winter scenes. My father remarked to Robert Pilot several decades back of his surprise that the master charged him higher prices for these autumn scenes than comparable works of other seasons. To legitimize the increased selling price he replied by outlining the time and expense he incurred away from home waiting for the colours to be just right and then, capturing their brilliance in a limited number of sketches the colours would then be gone, resulting in a more costly body of work.


Pilot was indeed passionate about autumn. Our canvas, painted in 1931, represents a view likely just below the Plains of Abraham looking toward the St-Michel Church in neighbouring Sillery. As with so much of Pilot’s impressionist painting there is an intense interest with the horizons and lighting afforded in Quebec. We also invite you to enjoy and purchase any of the other outstanding Robert Pilot paintings we are presently offering for sale.

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