ArtworksHenry J. SimpkinsMontreal Harbour1906-1995Sold
Inscriptionssigned, ‘H. Simpkins’ (lower right); titled ‘MONTREAL HARBOUR’ (verso, upper centre)
Walter Klinkhoff Gallery Inc., Montreal;
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Henry Simpkins has captured what is now a historic view of the Port of Montreal, set against a backdrop of old Montreal and with a particular focus on the building constructed by Liverpool England’s Royal Insurance Company. The building “ [...] exceeded the height of all its neighbours and dominated the waterfront piers with its imposing front entry tower akin to a beacon at the entry to a port ”, is how it is described. The site of the building at Pointe a Calliere is considered “the birthplace of Montreal”. The building served as the Custom House from 1871 through to 1917, demolished by fire in 1951. In 1992 to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the City of Montreal, on this very site the City opened the Pointe a Calliere museum, the museum claims to house “all of Monreal’s history in one place”. Beyond that goal, Pointe-à-Callieres organizes a renowned program of exhibitions, some curated in house and others visiting from other museums. The cornerstone of the impressive complex is the building “the Eperon”, a contemporary architectural inspiration of the Royal Insurance Building.
Henry J. Simpkins (1906-1995)
Henry Simpkins was a native of Winnipeg Manitoba. Simpkins was educated at the Winnipeg School of Fine Art under Franz Johnston and L. L. FitzGerald. His apprenticeship as an artist in Winnipeg was that of an illustrator with the venerable firm of Brigden’s, a successful centre for graphic arts in western Canada. With opportunities limited in Winnipeg, but plentiful in most large cities, Simpkins left and worked as a commercial artist first in London and then in New York before making his return to Canada in 1929 where he worked as an illustrator for Grip and Batten in Montreal.
During his career, Simpkins exhibited regularly at the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and at the Montreal Art Association for more than 20 years from 1931 At the AAM Simpkins won the Jessie Dow Prize for watercolour in 1932 and 1934. He was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy of Art in 1936 and became a full member in 1971. Simpkins exhibited with fine galleries notably our Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Continental Gallery, Masters, Manuge, Wallack, and Kastel Gallery
Simpkins was particularly recognized for his watercolours, which he painted to great accomplishment. From my earliest days at Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, I had the pleasure of regularly visiting Henry, “Hank” as he was known to his friends, at his home in Dorval’s Pine Beach Boulevard where I would select watercolours from him to offer at our gallery. He was a kind soft spoken and modest gentleman.
1. "The Royal Insurance Building: from insurance to custom house”, Pointe-à-Callière Montreal Archaeology and History Complex, Accessed January 24, 2021, https://pacmusee.qc.ca/en/stories-of-montreal/article/the-royal-insurance-building-from-insurance-to-custom-house/