Artwork by Frederick Horsman Varley,  Mabou - Cape Breton

Frederick Varley
Mabou - Cape Breton

oil on canvas board
signed lower right; titled and Varley Inventory Number (441) stamped on the reverse
12 x 15 ins ( 30.5 x 38.1 cms )

Sold for $19,550.00
Sale date: May 31st 2016

Provenance:
Roberts Gallery, Toronto
Canadian Fine Arts, Toronto
Private Collection, Ontario
Literature:
Maria Tippett, “Stormy Weather: F.H. Varley, A Biography”, Toronto, 1998, pages 13 and 231
Varley was born in Sheffield, England in 1881 and immigrated to Canada in 1912 with encouragement from a future Group of Seven member, Arthur Lismer, who had already made his way from Sheffield to Toronto by that time. Varley was an official war artist and became a member of the Group of Seven in 1920. In 1955, Varley made a sketching trip to Cape Breton, during which he remained loyal to earth tones in his painting. He said, “I think the best work done is when painting memories,” but he was also an independent romantic who knew when to push himself. Varley best reveals these personal dichotomies in small, intimate examples of his work.

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Frederick Horsman Varley
(1881 - 1969) Group of Seven, ARCA

Born in Sheffield, England, Frederick Varley went to Antwerp as a young man to study art at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts and then returned to London, England to work as an illustrator. In 1912 he came to Toronto, Canada where he formed a friendship with Arthur Lismer. Lismer introduced Varley to fellow artists who spent their weekends painting outside of the city. They tried to convince Varley that the most challenging and inspiring subject matter was the Canadian Landscape. Varley, who was more interested in portraiture, took a while to warm to the lure of the landscape, which he eventually did. His best work, however, continued to be his portrait and figure work into which he incorporated the landscape.

In 1926 he accepted a teaching position at the Vancouver School of Art and stayed in British Columbia until 1936 when he returned to Eastern Canada to continue his career as an artist with some teaching to help his finances. Varley was an avid reader of philosophy, in particular the writings of Chinese writers. These writings, along with his own observations, influenced his approach to colour and subject matter. He felt "colour vibrations", as he expressed it, "emanating from the object portrayed". His personal use of colour became a trademark of his paintings and one that is still used by so many artists today, such was the lasting influence of his work.