ArtworksFriedrich Wilhelm (Fritz) BrandtnerSunflowers, 1936 (circa)1896-1969Sold
Inscriptionsinscribed ‘Sunflowers’ (recto, upper horizontal stretcher); stamped ‘F.BRANDTNER / ARTIST / 1154 Beaver Hall Sq’ (verso, upper horizontal stretcher)
Purchased from the artist by Private Collector;
By descent to the present Private Collection, Quebec.
— It is likely safe to suggest that sunflowers in art are synonymous with Gustav Klimt and Vincent Van Gogh. Their symbolism is interpreted as from love to loyalty and luck. One might speculate that Brandtner, at the time of his painting of Sunflowers, was safe in Canada and that this series of sunflowers is an expression of his good fortune.
In 2011, our now late and distinguished colleague Jean-Pierre Valentin of the gallery of the same name hosted an important Brandtner exhibition of more than 35 works by the master. The catalogue was accompanied by an excellent text written for the occasion by René Viau.
“Brandtner played a unique role as a ‘go-between’ in the development of modern art in Canada. [...] 1934 marked the beginning of Brandtner’s involvement in the Montreal art scene. Brandtner was the first artist to show staunchly abstract in Montreal. He did so in February 1936, when a solo exhibition of his work was presented at Morgan’s department store, sponsored by the Canadian league against War and Fascism. Brandtner was a member of this organization, as was Dr. Norman Bethune who also collected the artist’s work. In fact, Brandtner moved in to Bethune’s Beaver Hall Square apartment when the latter left the city in October 1936 to participate in the Spanish civil war.”
Charles Hill wrote that “The first work Fritz Brandtner exhibited in Montreal was purchased by Norman Bethune”. According to an interview with Brandtner’s widow, Mieze, on September 12, 1973 the painting Dr. Bethune purchased was Sunflower, a painting exhibited at the Art Association of Montreal’s 51st Spring Exhibition, April 19 - May 13, 1934.
A look at the paintings submitted by Brandtner to the Art Association of Montreal exhibition in ‘34 records Sunflower as a work offered for sale for $200. On the reverse of “ours”, one that anecdotally was purchased by a friend of the artist and directly from him and has a price on the reverse of $250, we are inclined to speculate that this is a different and larger work than the one Dr. Bethune purchased at the AAM in 1934. It is also noteworthy that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has in its collection an important Fritz Brandtner painting of sunflowers, clearly a sister picture to the one offered here.
See René Viau. Fritz Brandtner (1898-1969) the great “go between”. Text published in the catalog of the exhibition Retrospective Exhibition. From September 10 to 24, 2011: Fritz Brandtner. Galerie Jean Pierre Valentin, Montreal, Quebec. 2011.
41. Hill, Charles C. (1975). Canadian Painting in the Thirties. Ottawa, Ontario: The National Gallery of Canada, p. 134.