CARR WORKS ON THE BLOCK
Likely to fetch millions
Emily Carr's health declined in the late 1930s — she had a heart attack in 1937 and another one in 1939.
Incredibly, once she recovered, she continued to paint masterpieces. Two are for sale in this spring's Heffel Auction: Swirl (1937) and Tossed by the Wind (1939).
Both are deep dives into the forest, paintings executed with Carr's bold brush strokes and deep, rich greens. They both have a lot of movement, like the trees are indeed swirling in the wind.
Swirl was a favourite of Carr's. She gave it to Lawren Harris in 1941 in appreciation of all the help he'd given her over the years. It's somewhat legendary among Carr collectors because it has been in some key exhibitions, but hasn't been on public display since a National Gallery show in 1990.
“Swirl has been in Seattle for decades, and few people have been lucky to see it,” said Laurel Kratzer of Heffel. “When we announced this painting, some sophisticated collectors said, `Wow, you found Swirl!'”
Robert Heffel said “mature period Emily Carr forest scene canvasses” like this are rare, partly because many late-period paintings like this were given to the Vancouver Art Gallery by Harris when he was involved in the Emily Carr Trust.” He picked the work that was more in tune with what (he liked), he picked these type of paintings,” said Heffel, who runs the auction with his brother David. “Both these paintings could hang in the Vancouver Art Gallery, or any museum in the world.”
Tossed by the Wind was purchased through the Vancouver Art Gallery's art rental program in the 1950s. The cost is unknown, but might have been around $200. Its estimated worth today is $1.2 million to $1.6 million; Swirl is estimated at $1 million to $1.5 million.
This is the third auction the Heffel gallery has put together in the pandemic, a tough task that Robert calls “our twice yearly miracle.”
“This sale is monumentally good, and the fact we were able to put this together during COVID really speaks to our team, the dedication of our staff all across the country,” he said.
There are 92 paintings and sculptures in the auction, which has an overall estimate of $10 million to $14 million. It will take place on June 23 in two parts: Postwar and Contemporary Art at 2 p.m., and Canadian, Impressionist and Modern Art at 4 p.m.
Typically hundreds of people turn out to see the auction live, but this auction will be online. The Heffel brothers will conduct the sale from Vancouver, while the artworks will be in Toronto, the last stop on a three-city preview.
“The buyers will be watching a real-time video of the sale,” explained Robert. “Some buyers will be pre-registered on the phone, so we'll call them and they'll bid on the phone. Other buyers will leave an absentee bid in advance, and other clients will be watching the real time video and bidding online.”
The Vancouver preview for the auction is on through, May 19 at the Heffel Gallery, 2247 Granville St.
“Because of the pandemic we stretched out our previews in all three cities,” Robert explained. “They're by appointment. It allows people more time to come in — rather than having a whole bunch of people here at once, it's spread out.”
The highest priced artwork in the sale is a Fernand Leger abstract, Peinture imaginare, which carries an estimate of $1.5 million to $2 million. It speaks to Heffel's growing international presence — it's a painting by a French master, consigned by a Swiss collector.
It looks stunning in the Heffel gallery on Granville, where it has been placed in the front room on a wall painted “Group of Seven blue.”
British Columbians will also be intrigued by a pair of colourful E.J. Hughes paintings of the Interior, Above Revelstoke (1963) and The Beach at Kalamalka Lake (1962).
The latter will evoke strong feelings in housebound Vancouverites who pine for the sun-baked hills and deep blue lakes of the Okanagan. Both have estimates of $150,000 to $250,000.
Swirl has been in Seattle for decades and few people have been lucky to see it. When we announced this painting, some sophisticated collectors said, `Wow, you found Swirl!'