The big news in Canadian art today is that, of the 198 paintings up for sale Thursday night at Sotheby’s auction in Toronto, about 55 did not sell while several high-profile works failed to live up to expectations. Bidding on a 9×10-inch plein-air oil sketch by Tom Thomson entitled Early Snow, Algonquin Park (1916), for instance, stopped at $425,000 — $25,000 shy of its reserve and estimated price of $450,000 to $600,000. The painting was originally purchased from the Laing Gallery in 1958 for $1,000, and apparently had hung in a little waterfront bungalow somewhere in Pennsylvania for several decades before it was sent off to auction. Here’s a tiny JPEG to give the you flavour of the piece:
For the most part, Thomson’s celebrated oil sketches are very easy to like: the colour, the brushwork, the compositions, everything about them still seems fresh and attractive, even after all these years. But it’s often that way with sketches, isn’t it?
Thomson’s large-scale studio paintings are an entirely different kettle of fish.