ArtworksRobert PilotQuebec-Levis, 19251898-1967Sold
Inscriptionssigned, ‘R. Pilot’ (recto, lower left); inscribed ‘Quebec - Levis 1925 / RW Pilot’ (verso)
The Watson Art Galleries, Montreal, January 1926.
Estate of Mr. & Mrs. Robert L. Munro, Westmount, Quebec
ExhibitionsMontreal, The Watson Art Galleries, Fourth Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings and Pastels by Maurice Cullen, RCA and Robert Pilot, ARCA, January 18-30 1926, no. 13 as The Quebec Ferry.This painting represents the pinnacle of Canadian Impressionism. I cannot recall ever having a finer small painting by Pilot. Quebec - Levis, 1925 defines Robert Pilot as a premiere Canadian artist. With this particular painting, only the very best of Suzor-Coté, Maurice Cullen and Clarence Gagnon is its equal.
As a personal observation, we have seen a limited number of paintings from this 1922-1928 generation and have found them consistently a genuine tour de force. Research dates his return from art studies in Paris to 1922. Then, the following year, “young” Robert Pilot was invited by art dealer William Watson to show his paintings in an exhibition with his step father, mentor and tutor, Maurice Cullen, who had already met with great acclaim among Watson’s clientele. Watson continued to match Pilot with his senior in 1924 and 1926. One should justifiably extrapolate from this pairing that in order to avoid embarrassment that Robert Pilot was strongly motivated to excel with every painting he contributed. Quebec - Levis is evidence that he succeeded. Pilot’s excitement with the inspirations and techniques acquired by his two years of study in Paris are brandished in this body of work. William Watson rewarded the artist with a solo exhibition in 1927.
The composition represents the ferry crossing from Levis to Quebec, the Citadel presiding from the heights and a view looking toward the church at Sillery in the distance. The scene is captured under a setting sun in a twilight sky painted in pearly greys, tonalities that became synonymous with the best of Pilot in Quebec. Although he was living in Montreal, it was Pilot’s stimulation with the horizons that the Quebec City area offered that brought him there as early as 1922 and regularly over the ensuing 45 years.
With this sketch as an example, it is in Quebec where Pilot painted among his most powerful pictures. The strength and energy emanates from that foreground described in heavy impasto with the most confident brush strokes with a palette successfully relating the event in the icy cold waters. In the middle ground, the last gleams of sunlight dance upon the river, a classic Impressionist compositional device.