BlogJune 20, 2019

The Provenance of an Exquisite Sketch by Clarence Gagnon

Recently acquired painting prompts a discussion about provenance

We have recently acquired and are proud to make available an exquisite sketch in oils by Clarence Gagnon of his preferred painting place, Baie St. Paul in Charlevoix County.

 

 

Clarence A. Gagnon, R.C.A. (1881-1942) Laurentian Homestead / Ferme du rang St Antoine, Baie St. Paul, c. 1920

Clarence A. Gagnon, R.C.A. (1881-1942)

Laurentian Homestead / Ferme du rang St Antoine, Baie St. Paul, c. 1920

Oil on panel, 6 ¼ x 9 ¼ in.

 

 

Verso of Laurentian Homestead / Ferme du rang St Antoine, Baie St. Paul with artist’s title, his signature, his thumbprints, and Mme. Gagnon’s certification label

 

Verso of Laurentian Homestead / Ferme du rang St Antoine, Baie St. Paul with artist’s title, his signature, his thumbprints, and Mme Gagnon’s certification label

 

Note on the reverse Clarence Gagnon’s signature, his title Laurentian Homestead and his thumbprints.  Additionally we find that certificated and inventory number 45 that corresponds to a list that the widowed Madame Gagnon made of the inventory of Clarence Gagnon paintings in his estate.  Clarence Gagnon aficionados will know that sketches that were in his estate are rarely signed. The reason for a lack of a signature is adequately simple, in so far as most of his sketches in oil he did not offer for sale, keeping them for reference purposes.  Perhaps he might use one or the other as a reference in the future for a larger format painting. One might look at this as the difference between a diary entry that one makes and a letter that one sends. The former would be left unsigned while the latter would be.  

 

Because Laurentian Homestead is titled and signed by the master on the reverse, this suggests that Clarence had previously offered it sale albeit unsuccessfully. Interestingly, the gentleman who sold to us this fine sketch provided to us its history of ownership or provenance, at least as it was related to him by the person from whom he made its purchase.  The story is that the woman who sold it had received it from her aunt, who lived in Westmount, Quebec and who had been an immediate neighbour of Clarence and Lucile.  She continued that her aunt was an artist herself and had a lot in common with the Gagnons and purchased several artworks from the couple.

 

Coincidentally in the family history of the woman provided to us, I recognized the name of a good friend from my high school days in 1960s Montreal. I also remembered that some 10 or 15 years we sold for him ago a fine Clarence Gagnon sketch.  Nadine and I did a bit of research beginning with Montreal’s Lovell phone directories that are digitized and available online. We were able to confirm that Lucile Gagnon and the original owners, Mr. & Mrs. James Ross, had been immediate neighbours in Westmount. That they could have known Clarence is impossible because they were neighbours only fully fifteen years after Clarence's death.

 

I then contacted my friend Jim, of yesteryear, now residing in Newmarket, Ontario.  He confirmed to me that the lady who had inherited Laurentian Homestead / Ferme du rang St Antoine, Baie St. Paul is his cousin.  Jim also related stories of a couple of visits to Madame Gagnon’s home during the last few years of her life, a time when she was suffering from a pulmonary disease and had great difficulty walking about the house on de Lavigne in Westmount.   Jim told us that his cousin was also the goddaughter of the original owner, their “Aunt Marie” and therefore the cousin had first choice of Aunt Marie’s Gagnons. This Laurentian Homestead / Ferme du rang St Antoine, Baie St. Paul was the #1 choice from Aunt Marie’s Gagnons.

 

Upon the death of Clarence, Madame Gagnon had in her possession a large quantity of these precious oil sketches, more than 650 in total. She sold some from time to time through various art galleries including Toronto’s Blair Laing, and in Montreal at Continental, Watson, and Dad’s Walter Klinkhoff Gallery.  When Madame Gagnon passed away in April of 1967, in her will she designated my father, Walter Klinkhoff, to sell the Gagnon paintings in the Estate. It was a treasure trove of wonderful works of art, primarily sketches and drawings although with some canvases.

 

The purpose of the above is first to showcase this precious Clarence Gagnon we have available for sale. Secondly however it serves to tell our readers that provenance related to us and to you is not necessarily 100% reliable.  Even though the history is related in good faith and with the best of intentions, perhaps a bit like “broken telephone”, some of its accuracy may be lost. In this particular case, the exquisite Clarence Gagnon, Laurentian Homestead, is not in need of stories to enhance its merit.  Nevertheless the confirmation of a direct and verifiable link to Madame Gagnon and by extension the Estate of her late husband, does make for important historical record and a verifiable link that with the passage of time is not commonly available.

 

We are pleased to offer to collectors this Laurentian Homestead / Ferme du Rang St. Antoine, Baie St Paul  by Clarence Gagnon, as well as an important canvas, First Snow, Baie St. Paul; plus an oil sketch of the autumn of 1906 which served as a prototype for a major work in the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec; and two works on paper that relate to Gagnon’s illustrations for Maria Chapdelaine.   We encourage you to view these works on our website and to make their purchase.

 

First Snow, Baie St. Paul

Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in.

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Sketch for "Scène d'automne / Autumn scene", 1906

Oil on panel, 4 1/2 x 7 in.

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Study for Maria Chapdelaine p. 42, c. 1930 Mixed media, 8 1/4 x 8 3/4 in.

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Detail de l'illustration pour Maria Chapdelaine (page 198), 1933

Mixed media,  7 x 3 in.

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NB

*Although Mme Gagnon did note that #45 was owned by Mrs James Ross, when the inventory was transcribed the title was erroneously listed as “Ferme du Rang St Laurent, Baie St Paul instead of “Ferme du Rang St Antoine, Baie St Paul. 

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