Thomson, Varley, McNicoll and Holgate Lead Way in Heffel’s $11.5 Million Auction

. May 23, 2008

On Thursday night at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s Parkview Terrace, Heffel Fine Art Auction House held the one of the top Canadian fine art auctions in history. The auction was the first of Canada’s major spring auctions, featuring 164 lots, one which sold for just over a million dollars. The $11.5 million sales total is a firm indication that Canada’s strong fine art market is thriving.

A magnificient 8-1/2 by 10-1/2 inch oil on panel with a bold richly textured landscape by Tom Thomson drew the highest bidding of the night. The sketch had a conservative estimate of $400,000 to $600,000, but went for triple the low end of the estimate – selling for $1,150,000 (all prices include 15% buyers premium). It is only the sixth work by Tom Thomson to exceed the $1 million mark.

Another 8-1/2 by 10-1/2 inch panel, Poplar Point, Rock, Sun is a richly colored forest scene, painted in1916, the year before his mysterious death. This work sold for $460,000. The 6-5/8 by 6-5/8 inch square image called Thunderstorm tripled the low end of its estimate range at $195,500.

“Once again we were delighted to see consistently strong bidding throughout the sale,” says Robert Heffel, vice president Heffel Fine Art Auction House. “The spirited bidding is a great reflection of the outstanding quality of work we had in the auction this spring.”

Over 400 people attended the auction at the Heffel’s new auction site at the base of Vancouver’s Pan Pacific Hotel. Another 120 people participated in the sale by telephone from Europe, Asia and across North America.

The auction was memorable for five outstanding works painted by Frederick Varley while he lived in Vancouver. Of the Group of Seven members, Varley painted portraiture the most. A rare, large double-sided oil on canvas of his student and model Norma Park set a record for a work by Varley. The 40 x 33 inch vertical image titled Norma was signed and dated with his thumbprint in 1933. It sold for $690,000.

From Kitsilano is 12 x 15 inch on board that Varley painted in 1932. There are two houses in the foreground of the picture. The small brown house on the left side of the image was the home he lived in on Point Grey Road from 1926 until about 1934. It sold in its estimated range at $207,000. Dusk – Tantalus Range is another vibrant work by Varley capturing the cloak of dusk on the Coastal Mountains near Vancouver. This 12 x 15 inch oil on panel sold for $402,500.

“To have these three great Varley works all painted in B.C. is rare,” says David Heffel, President, Heffel Fine Art Auction House. “Varley’s work is highly sought after and these paintings were among the most popular in our previews in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.”

There was a strong selection of works by other Group of Seven artists in this sale. The highlight of the 17 works by A.Y. Jackson is a glorious rural scene with a horse and sleigh cutting a path in fresh snow – Winter Afternoon Near Baie Sait-Paul, Quebec. The 20-1/4 x 26-3/8 inch oil on canvas was painted circa 1924 and sold for $603,750. This set a new record price for an A.Y. Jackson painting. Four other Jackson paintings sold over the $100,000 mark.

The highlight of the Lawren Harris oil paintings in the sale was a 49 x 30 inch double-sided abstract – Mountain Experience / Abstraction 140 (verso) which sold for $345,000.

Five works by Jean-Paul Riopelle in this sale was highlighted by a 38 x 26 inch watercolour and ink on paper. Sans titre tripled the previous record for a Riopelle watercolour with the sale price of $184,000.

On August 9, 1948, sixteen avant~garde artists and intellectuals in Montreal, lead by Paul~Émile Borduas, published Refus Global (Total Refusal), an incendiary anti~religious and anti~establishment manifesto. This group, which included Jean-Paul Riopelle, became known as the Automatists. An encased first edition of this manifesto sold for $36,800. It is the third rare copy the Heffels have had in auction in the past year, and this was double the previous high price also set by Heffel.

Four Paul-Emile Borduas lots were hammered down in this sale, highlighted by A l’entrée de la jungle. This small vertical oil on canvas, while only 13-1/8 x 9 inches is layer on layer of contrasting colours of paint applied with a palette knife. This painting exceeded its estimate and sold for $103,500.

Major abstract works by three more members of The Automatists were up for bids in this sale. Pierre Gauvreau’s Verticale de jour is a 60 x 25 inch oil on canvas, signed and dated 1962 sold for $46,000. Jean-Paul Mousseau’s 24 x 34 inch oil on canvas with bold and bright diagonal stripes sold for $16,100. Christian Marcel Barbeau’s Ouvri, a 30 x 40 inch oil on canvas sold for a record $86,250.

There were 28 lots that sold for over $100,000. A few of the highlights include Helen McNicoll’s superb Impressionist painting Watching the Boat which sold for $603,750. This was more than double the previous record for the artist (also set by Heffel).

Edwin Holgate’s Near Amiens sold for $575,000, beating Heffel’s previous record for the artist.

Emily Carr’s watercolour documentation of a First Nations totem she painted on a historic 1912 journey to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Gitwangak sold for $207,000.

The first lot of the auction, printmaker Sybil Andrews’ linocut Speedway sold for a record $103,500. Two lots later this record was broken by another Andrews’ linocut Flower Girls which sold for an astounding $109,250.

The Heffels have the most experienced team of fine art specialists in the business, providing customers with the best opportunity for maximizing the value of their works. The second part of the Heffel’s Spring auction is the May on line sale of 284 Canadian works. The catalogue is currently posted on line at and concludes on Saturday, May 31, 2008.

HEFFEL is Canada’s premiere national fine art auction house with offices in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and representatives in Calgary and London, England.

Category: Auction News

Comments are closed.