Rare Paul Kane Paintings Featured At Heffel Auction

Eighty paintings at the Heffel auction have an estimated $ 12 million to $ 17 million.

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Paul kane He was Canada’s most famous artist before the appearance of Tom thomson and the Group of seven . But most paintings by 19th-century artists are housed in institutions, making Kane’s paintings up for auction very rare and highly valuable.


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“Our family has been in the art business since 1978 and we have never had the opportunity to sell a Paul Kane,” said David Heffel of the Heffel Gallery.

That will change on December 1, when Kane Assiniboine Hunting Buffalo’s 1855 painting goes on sale at the Heffel Auction . The pre-auction estimate is $ 2.5 million to $ 3.5 million.

It’s on view at the Heffel Gallery at 2247 Granville St. until Oct. 27 before heading to previews in Montreal and Toronto. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, you must make an appointment to enter the heffel.com/auction/ .

Assiniboine Hunting Buffalo is an oil on canvas painting depicting two Assiniboine First Nation men on horseback hunting a buffalo, one with a bow and arrow and the other with a spear.


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The prairie scene was made in Kane’s studio in Toronto almost a decade after he witnessed it in 1846. Kane made several trips through western Canada between 1845 and 1848, making sketches and watercolors that he later worked on in his studio.

Many of his works depict First Nations life before white settlers arrived and changed the West.

“The critical legacy of Kane’s art is a visual record of the culture and landscape that would soon be the archive of a lost time and place,” writes Kenneth Lister in the auction catalog.

In this case, Kane painted the scene three times: a version It is in the National Gallery of Ottawa.

Heffel said this version was sold in 1990 for $ 400,000, but prices have gone up. Kane’s 1845-46 painting Scene in the Northwest-Portrait set a Canadian record when it sold for $ 5.06 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Toronto in 2002 (it was surpassed by the $ 11.2 million paid by Lawren Harris’s Mountain Forms in 2016).


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Heffel said the last major Kane canvas to come up for auction was in 2004. So this is the first to go up for auction in 17 years.

There are 80 lots in the auction, including seven paintings by Emily Carr , six for Harris and five from Jean Paul Riopelle, AY Jackson, David Milne and AJ Casson. The general estimate for the auction is $ 12 million to $ 17 million.

Cordova Drift by Emily Carr.
Cordova Drift by Emily Carr. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

The key Carr is Cordova Drift, a 1931 oil from a natural coastal scene near Victoria that is estimated at $ 2 million to $ 3 million.

“He’s a wonderful Carr,” Heffel said. “There is a lot of movement in the trees, a nice bright ocean and sky, and a very interesting close-up. But it also has the presence of man, with a cabin by the sea. The tree (arbutus) in the center appears, that’s what attracts you. “


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Paintings like this usually take a long time to reach the market.

“Our first contact with the family that consigned this painting was in November 2000, after we sold (Carr’s) war canoes for a million dollars,” he said. “We didn’t think it would hit the market anytime soon, but after 21 years we have it for sale.”

Other paintings remain in a family for generations, such as Thomson’s Spring, 1916, (estimated between $ 600,000 and $ 800,000), which was last sold in 1920. The small oil-on-board sketch shows Thomson’s beloved Algonquin Park in the point where the winter snow and ice is almost gone thanks to the spring thaw.

“It’s a moving scene, painted with a bold paint treatment and abbreviated but delicate brushstroke,” notes Thomson expert Joan Murray in the catalog. “Silently dazzle.”


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Guido Molinari’s violet-ocher Bi-sériel (estimated at $ 200,000 to $ 300,000) on the other hand, is definitely not quiet. Ten feet tall and 7 1/2 feet wide, it consists of a dozen colored vertical stripes.

“Based on the scale, it feels like it’s wrapped around you,” Heffel said.

The auction sleeper could be a charming 1973 painting by William Kurelek, North American Success Story ($ 40,000 to $ 60,000). It shows a nuclear family in front of their suburban home in winter, with two cars in the garage.

Kurelek made his own frames, and in this case, the frame looks like the side of the house: wooden planks on top and bricks on the bottom. There is probably no other like it.

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David Heffel and Ainsley Heffel with Guido Molinari's painting: Bi-seriel violet-ocher.
David Heffel and Ainsley Heffel with Guido Molinari’s painting: Bi-seriel violet-ocher. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG
William Kurelek's success story in North America.
William Kurelek’s success story in North America.
Tom Thomson's Spring, 1916.
Tom Thomson’s Spring, 1916.



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