Artwork by Bertram Richard Brooker,  Creation

Bertram Brooker

oil on board
titled and the estate stamp on the reverse
24 x 17 ins ( 61 x 43.2 cms )

Sold for $23,000.00
Sale date: May 31st 2016

Private Collection
“B.R. Brooker”, The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1972 and travelling to other galleries including the Confederation Art Centre, no.1
“The Logic of Ecstasy: Canadian Mystical Painting 1920-1940”, London Regional Art and Historical Museums, March 10-April 22, 1990, travelling to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Edmonton Art Gallery, Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, and Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax
Dennis Reid, “Bertram Brooker (1888-1955)”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1979, cat. no.1, reproduced page 21
Ann Davis, “The Logic of Ecstasy: Canadian Mystical Painting 1920-1940”, Toronto, 1992, reproduced page 71
A forerunner for abstraction in Canada, Brooker was originally criticized for his innovative work which contrasted with the traditional landscape art of the time. His work was included in the “International Exhibition of Modern Art”, Assembled by the Société Anonyme in 1927 at the Art Gallery of Toronto, the first exhibition to introduce Canada to abstraction. Friends with the Group of Seven, and particularly close with Lawren Harris, Brooker was also a member of the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto, often socializing and discussing theosophy with Harris and its place in painting.

Exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada in 1972, “Creation” features the abstracted orb-like form, a hollowed figure filling the image plane, as the predominant feature of the composition. Rays of yellow emit vertically from behind the orb while diagonal lines in the upper left and lower right corners frame the composition, harnessing the powerful energy. The title hints at Brooker's endeavour to not simply paint static objects, but to capture an action; to paint verbs in a non-literal representation.

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Bertram Richard Brooker
(1888 - 1955) Canadian Group of Painters, RCA

Born in Croydon, England Bertram Brooker moved with his parents to Portage la Prairie in 1905. Brooker had no formal art education. He acquired a reputation as a writer, painter, musician, and poet. Brooker worked for the Winnipeg Telegram, the Regina Leader, the Winnipeg Free Press and then moved east to Toronto in 1921 where he joined the staff of Marketing, becoming its editor and publisher from 1924 to 1926. His interest in the arts led to his membership in the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto where he enjoyed the company of many professional artists. Graham McInnes noted “ . . . amateurs occasionally achieved professional rank, as in the case of Bertram Brooker, whose contribution to graphic art and illustration was both original and striking . . .”

Brooker, who associated with members of the Group of Seven, received material and advice from Bess Housser who was later to become Mrs. Lawren Harris. About 1928, he wrote a column under the title “The Seven Arts” which was syndicated to the Ottawa Citizen; the Journal, Edmonton; the Vancouver, and the Ottawa Citizen; the Journal, Edmonton; the Vancouver Province, and the Calgary Herald, in which he discussed the general happenings in architecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry, dancing and drama. His column often mentioned activities in which he had participated. Once, he told of how Dr. Frederick Banting and he had done each other’s portraits by sitting for an hour at a time. He also wrote of Emily Carr being shipwrecked during a summer sketching trip along the northern end of the British Columbia coast – not purely for gossip reasons, but he was discussing rugs she had made which he saw at the Clubrooms of the Women’s Art Association of Toronto – he concluded his report – “Details of what happened did not reach me, except that she managed to bring back a number of interesting sketches.” Brooker was a charter member of the Canadian Group of Painters and he won the Governor General's Award for fiction in 1936 for his first novel "Think of Earth".

He preferred realism during the late '20s and early '30s. It was during this time that he was influenced by LeMoin FitzGerald, a friend of Brooker's and contemporary artist. Brooker’s drawings showed the influence of William Blake and El Greco, both of whom he had intimate knowledge, as he gave lectures about these men to audiences at the National Gallery in Ottawa and the Art Gallery of Toronto. His illustrations included a series on the “Ancient Mariner” and on “Crime and Punishment”. His illustrations for the “Ancient Mariner” shared a certain affinity with the drawings of mountainous lake country done by Lawren S. Harris. Paul Duval noted his work in pencil and pen drawing, and the kinship he shared with artist Kathleen Munn, he said, “Brooker and Munn did a series of fastidiously executed landscapes and still-lifes which possess an almost silverpoint delicacy. Kathleen Munn also shared with Brooker a deep interest in religious symbolism . . .”

Brooker was very interested in music and his abstracts in this direction were worthy of attention. The Toronto Telegram credited him as being the first to sense a relationship between the abstract forms of music and the composition of paintings. Robert Ayre remarked how Brooker might have contributed more in Canadian drawing and painting had he note have been so diverse a man, but in the same breath, said that he is to be honoured for his pioneering spirit in his writing and editing.

Bertram Brooker was an artist of several mediums and is a key example of liberation and innovation in the extensive history of Canadian art. Through a diversity of artistic interpretations and styles, Brooker captured both spiritual and commercial perspectives. At the time of Brooker’s death he was Vice-President of the McLaren Advertising, a firm he had joined in 1937. Brooker was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists, The Royal Canadian Academy, the Canadian Group of Painters, and the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. A memorial exhibition of his work was held at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1956.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977