Artwork by Edwin Headley Holgate,  The Three Forces

Edwin Holgate
The Three Forces

oil on canvas laid down on board
signed with initials lower right
25.75 x 57.25 ins ( 65.4 x 145.4 cms ) ( overall )

Auction Estimate: $30,000.00$20,000.00 - $30,000.00

Price Realized $18,400.00
Sale date: May 25th 2017

Gift of the Artist to the Canadian Legion, Morin Heights, Quebec
Private Collection, Toronto
Laura Brandon, “Ready for the Unexpected? The War Art of Edwin Holgate,” in eds. Rosalin Pepall and Brian Foss, Edwin Holgate, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, 2005, page 98
Dennis Reid, Edwin H. Holgate, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1976, pages 7-24
Evelyn Walters, The Beaver Hall Group and Its Legacy, Toronto, 2017, pages 38-43
A recognized serviceman and unofficial war artist during the First World War, Edwin Holgate returned to Montreal at the end of the war with pages of sketches of military life. Holgate continued his work in his Montreal studio focusing on figurative, portraiture and landscape works along with various mural commissions for the Chateau Laurier, the Canadian Pavilion for New York's World Fair (1939) and the Canadian National Rail.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Holgate took up an official post as a Canadian War Artist with the Royal Canadian Air Force for the Canadian War Art Program. Stationed at airbases in Sorel, Quebec, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in various bases in England during his tenure, Holgate was afforded the opportunity to witness the daily regime of the RCAF and Navy men in nearby Naval bases. As official artists were limited to only their assigned environments, they could not participate in operational experiences. This rigid structure allowed Holgate to document multiple portrait sketches and military landscape studies to later transform into larger complete canvas works. Laura Brandon, the authority on Canadian War Art, argues that Holgate was able to “capture with sensitive skill the often tedious reality that was the experience of most service personnel and home front labourers in the Second World War.”

Upon resigning from the War Art Program before the conclusion of the Second World War, Holgate retuned to Canada and moved to Morin Heights, a small town outside of Montreal. Here, this new more rural life suited the older Holgate as he had greater time to reflect and enjoy life separated from the busy Montreal art scene which focused on the emerging abstract art movement. “The Three Forces” was donated to the Morin Heights Royal Canadian Legion Branch 171 by Holgate, a former member of the branch, in 1971. It hung above the Legion's piano for over 40 years. The gaiety in the faces of the men along with dramatic perspective employed with their tapered bodies, expresses a moment of fun and reprieve from the war. Expressing the comradery between the Navy, Army and Air men, the stage scene is a charming depiction of entertainment and a unique token of Canadian military history.

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Edwin Headley Holgate
(1892 - 1977) Group of Seven, RCA

Edwin Holgate was born in Allandale, Ontario. Holgate began his art education at the Art Association of Montreal studying under William Brymner who was also A.Y. Jackson's teacher. In 1912 he went to Paris where he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière under Claudio Castelucho and later under Lucien Simon and René Ménard. He was in Russia at the outbreak of the First World War. He returned to Canada where he enlisted and served with the 5th Canadian Division Artillery in France (1916-19). He married Mary Frances Rittenhouse in 1920 and returned to Paris where he continued his studies. There he attended the Colarossi under Adolph Milman, a Russian refugee.

He returned with his wife to Canada in 1922 and opened a studio. He taught wood engraving at the Ecole des Beaux Arts for six years. In Montreal he enjoyed the friendship of A.Y. Jackson, Clarence Gagnon, Mabel May, Lilas Newton, Randolph Hewton, and many of the younger artists who became known as the Beaver Hall Hill Group. Holgate was a good skier and he would take trips to various parts of Quebec to sketch during the winters, sometimes at Baie St. Paul where A.Y. Jackson, Clarence Gagnon, Mabel May and others would congregate.

In 1926 he accompanied A.Y. Jackson and Marius Barbeau to the Skeena River area in British Columbia. Barbeau had been investigating the condition of the Indian totem poles, many of which were restored by the C.N.R. engineer Mr. T.B. Campbell. Holgate and Jackson made a number of sketches of the poles and the Indian villages in the area. From his sketches, Holgate made several large canvases. One is in the collection of the National Gallery and entitled is “Totem Poles, Gitsegiuklas”.

Holgate became the eighth member of the Group of Seven in 1931 and remained a member of the Group until it disbanded in 1933. From it arose the Canadian Group of Painters of which he was a founding member. Paul Duval noted that Holgate and Varley were the only members of the Group who drew and painted nudes. Holgate was well known also for his portraits and did many striking character studies of inhabitants of Canadian bush country. The Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada have his nude studies in their collections.

During the Second World War, Holgate served overseas as an official Canadian war artist with the R.C.A.F. and painted mainly portraits of flying officers. Holgate’s wood-engravings are exceptionally well done and interesting. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy (A.R.C.A. 1934 - R.C.A. 1935). His work has been exhibited in many group shows over the years. He is represented in many collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the McMichael Collection.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979