Artwork by Frank Hans Johnston,  A Rocky Corner - Bryce’s Island, Lake of the Woods

Franz Johnston
A Rocky Corner - Bryce’s Island, Lake of the Woods

oil on panel
signed with initials lower right; titled on the reverse
5.75 x 8 ins ( 14.6 x 20.3 cms )

Sold for $48,300.00
Sale date: May 31st 2016

Sotheby's Canada, auction, Toronto, May 26, 2008, lot 201
Masters Gallery Limited, Calgary
Private Collection
Roger Buford Mason, “A Grand Eye for Glory: A Life of Franz Johnston”, Toronto, 1998, pages 42-47
Through the early 1920s, Johnston travelled with fellow Group of Seven members into the Algoma region of Northern Ontario. During these trips, the artist was already looking west to settle in Manitoba. He travelled to Lake of the Woods in Southwest Ontario, returning numerous times from Toronto to sketch the unique area which crosses the borders of Ontario, Manitoba and Minnesota. Settling in 1921 in Winnipeg and becoming the principal of the Winnipeg School of Art, Johnston continued to travel to the lake region comprised of thousands of islands, often renting a cottage with his family.

Importantly, this panel was completed while the artist was still a member of the Group of Seven before severing ties to focus on his career and practice in Winnipeg. It is an example of the loose but precise interpretation of the landscape akin to Group-style and the artists fascination with light. Johnston depicted the scene with looser brush work with fresh green hues used to represent the lush moss covering the rock on the shoreline. Purple shadows from the trees above contrast with the green tones and speak to the artist’s interest in interpreting light and shade through colour, reminiscent of the European impressionists. The light blues of the water and bright sky indicate a clear day on the lake, an idyllic setting for the artist to continue his foray into capturing light's effect on colour in the Canadian landscape.

Johnston's canvas entitled “Serenity, Lake of the Woods” (1922), part of the Winnipeg Art Gallery's collection, shows the artists expert handling of light as it translates to the canvas. “A Rocky Corner- Bryce's Island, Lake of the Woods” stands as a token of the artist’s beloved sketching trips and artistic oeuvre of this short transitional period of time before settling in Winnipeg and shifting his artistic style to more realistic renderings of the landscape.

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Frank Hans Johnston
(1888 - 1949) Group of Seven, OSA, ARCA, CSPWC

"In Johnston one can almost see the sound swelling into the vastness of infinity. The small panel is no restriction to the eye and one stands among the stars of timeless space. Dancing formless light, subaqueous in feeling, ephemeral as Aurora Borealis. It holds one motionless in moving space." Frank (Franz) Johnston was born in Toronto and like many other Group members, he joined Grip Ltd. as a commercial artist. In 1910, he left for the United States where he studied art in Philadelphia and worked in commercial design in New York. Although an original member of the Group, Johnston's association was a brief one. He did exhibit in the exhibition of 1920, but by 1921 he had left Toronto to become Principal at the Winnipeg School of Art. In the earlier years of their friendship, Johnston had joined MacDonald and Harris on their journeys to Algoma. His paintings from those years express a strong decorative interpretation of the landscape. In later years, the artist's style became more realistic and revealed a strong fascination with the qualities of light. In 1927, Johnston changed his name to the more exotic title of 'Franz' Johnston and found some success in commercial art galleries, where he was free from association with any formal group of artists.