ArtworksDavid MilneBear Camp V (Baptiste Lake, Ontario), 1950 (circa February 23)1881-1953CAD 50,000
Inscriptionssigned, [in 1946, per Silcox / Milne], ‘DAVID MILNE’ (verso, lower left) inscribed by Duncan, ‘W-560 David Milne / Bear Camp II, blue cabin / (Feb. 1950) (verso); inscribed ‘David Milne / Bear Camp II: blue cabin / (feb 1950) / W-627 (verso)
Duncan / Picture Loan
John Aird, Toronto, circa 1955
Laing Galleries, Toronto, 1967
S. Pollock, Montreal, 1967
H. Hallward, Montreal, 1970
Marlborough-Godard Gallery, Toronto, 1974
Acquired from the above by private collection, Montreal, 1974.
ExhibitionsToronto, Picture Loan Society, Water Colours by David Milne, 21 February - 9 March 1951, no. 12 as "Bear Camp No. 2".
Toronto, Hart House, University of Toronto, David Milne, 7 - 22 January 1962, as "Bear Camp No. 2".
LiteratureDavid Silcox, Painting Place: The Life and Work of David B. Milne, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), repr. p. 362 as "Bear Camp V, 1950";
David Milne Jr. and David P. Silcox, David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings Volume 2: 1929 - 1953, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), no. 502.26, repr. p. 949, as "Bear Camp V".
As cited in David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings Volume 2: 1929 - 1953, p. 949:
Duncan Catalogue W-627, as Bear Camp II, NGC;
Milne to Kathleen Milne, Thursday  February [24 February 1950] (quoted in 502.23), MFP;
Milne to Douglas Duncan, Wednesday [10 May 1950], MFP;
Laing sale records, not numbered, as Bear Camp Blue Cabin, Laing estate.
From [Silcox / Milne 503.23, p.947-8]:
"The subject is Camp Makwan, originally a boys' camp, later a resort, on the west shore of Lavalley Bay in Baptist Lake. Milne travelled past the resort on all his trips to the store at Baptiste village. In his 23 February letter he wrote: 'I have been holding off on going home a little to try and leave the picture in fairly good shape ... Today and yesterday painted pictures of Makwan, yesterday winter from ice [probably Bear Camp IV, 502.25], second painting, today fall from water [a version of the Bear Camp series, one of the 502.22-4 or 502.26-8], third painting. The winter one finished but I am doubtful of the other one.
Milne to Kathleen Milne, Thursday [23 February 1950].
All together there are seven treatments of the Bear Camp subject, 502.22-8. The sequence in which they were done, however, is uncertain. Duncan's numbering may not have been chronologically accurate, so we cannot be sure to which pictures Milne was referring in his letter. The two versions with motor-boats (Bear Camp VI and VII, 502.27-8) probably came later, and we know the subject drapped by 10 May 1950. [...]"
Baptiste Lake is in the Bancroft area, just over 200 km northeast of Toronto. Frequently on the move throughout his life, often because of impecuniousness but also in search of new painting places, Milne scouted and then moved to this lake in the later 1940s. A skilled carpenter, he built a still-extent cabin in 1949. This was his studio for three years, the base for his explorations and memorable depictions of the surrounding landscape. Bancroft was a gritty and poor logging area at the time, yet the series of watercolours Milne executed there are, by contrast, ephemeral, even ethereal in their touch and mood. Milne’s outline of the gently hilly terrain rising from the lake structures Bear Camp V. Milne identified the site as Camp Makwan. The buildings and lakefront docks of the camp seem insubstantial, floating as they are in Milne’s signature washes of bright watercolour pigment. They may be abandoned camps that dotted the area and attracted Milne. Painting in February, he nonetheless revels in the hues of autumn. Milne was a keen observer of such phenomena, but he was not an en plein air painter in the sense that he insisted on transcribing just what he saw. Instead, he was an ecstatic connoisseur of natural phenomena who rendered what he recalled and thought as well as his immediate perceptual experience. Here he remembers the autumn from the perspective of winter, rendering the scene with his characteristic nervous outlining and freely flowing, saturated watercolours. Milne died at Baptiste Lake in December 1953.
Mark A. Cheetham
The Art Gallery of Ontario has prepared an informative series of videos on Milne, one of which explores Baptiste Lake through the artist’s diaries and a commentary by David Milne, Jr., who remembers living there when this picture was made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB5JzV7G1-k1of 8