Artwork by Franklin Carmichael,  Old Orchard

Franklin Carmichael
Old Orchard

oil on board
signed and dated 1940 lower right; signed with insignia, dated 1940 and inscribed “16” on the reverse
30 x 36 ins ( 76.2 x 91.4 cms )

Sold for $475,000.00
Sale date: June 12th 2017

Acquired directly from the Artist by Herbert Laurence Rous
By descent to the current Private Collection, Toronto
68th Annual Exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists, The Art Gallery of Toronto, March 1-31, 1940, cat. no. 23
Paintings and Water Colours, Canadian National Exhibition, 1940
Franklin Carmichael, Memorial Exhibition, The Art Gallery of Toronto, March, 1947, cat. no. 15 (exhibited as “Apple Orchard”)
Light and Shadow, The Work of Franklin Carmichael, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, 1990, cat. no. 59
In the Spirit of Carmichael: Orillia's One of Seven, Orillia Museum of Art and History, April 27 - July 9, 2005

Megan Bice, Light and Shadow, The Work of Franklin Carmichael, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, pages 7, 66, 86, 97, 105, reproduced page 90
68th Annual Exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists, The Art Gallery of Toronto, March 1-31, 1940, listed page 6
Paintings and Water Colours, Canadian National Exhibition, 1940, listed, unpaginated
Rous & Mann Press Limited Calendar, 1946, reproduced on cover
Robert Eyre and Donald W. Buchanan, Canadian Art, Volume IV, Number 4, Summer, 1947, reproduced on cover
Joyce Sowby, “Quality Printing: A History of Rous and Mann Limited, 1909-1954,” DA, A Journal of the Printing Arts, Number 51, Fall/Winter 2002, page 14

The youngest original member of the Group of Seven, Franklin Carmichael was born in Orillia, Ontario and moved to Toronto in 1911 at the age of twenty-one. Carmichael began working as an illustrator for Rous and Mann in 1915, the same year that he was married to Ada Went. Rous and Mann was the first Canadian printing company to appoint and retain a full-time, permanent art department. Albert Robson had joined Rous and Mann as art director in 1912 and his acquaintance with many artists in and around Toronto enabled him to attract some of the very best talent to the firm. He quickly developed an exceptional art department which included Franklin Carmichael, Tom Thomson, A.J. Casson and F.H. Varley.

Carmichael's connection to commercial art would remain strong throughout his career, the artist spending “twenty-one years of his life working as a commercial artist and designer and the remaining fourteen years of his career teaching its methods to others.” Hired as Carmichael's young apprentice in 1919 at Rous and Mann (Carmichael was the head designer at the firm at the time), Casson remarked that “over the years we became close friends and associates in the art world. He took me on many sketching trips...Everything I know about the craft of painting he taught me.”

In 1919, Franklin and Ada Carmichael bought a home in Lansing, now the Willowdale area of Toronto. The new home was in close proximity to where the Carmichaels enjoyed leisurely activities in the summer and winter months, as well as where Carmichael would sketch when time permitted. He would spend many years in Lansing, “[enjoying] the rewards and obligations of family life.” His full-time work as a commercial artist kept him close to home, remaining an artist dedicated to painting the Ontario landscape.

The artist did not record and journal as many other Group of Seven members did, however, in the limited notes that do exist, Carmichael acknowledges his close connection to chosen subject matter. “A profound interest of 'intimacy' with the actual subject matter was paramount, and automatically involved the artist's emotional response.” Undoubtedly, Carmichael's deep relationship with his surroundings is underscored in his masterwork, “Old Orchard”. Megan Bice writes: “Around 1940, Carmichael's freedom to roam from his Lansing home was restricted, particularly by the gasoline rationing of wartime. ‘Old Orchard’ is the view out his studio window, across his property to the neighbouring house... [A]s in ‘Farm, Haliburton’, the trees dominate the scene. Although an orchard is a man-made woods, the group of aging trees pictured here has become a powerful, twisted outgrowth of its more domesticated, cultivated predecessor. As well, the painting reveals the artist's long infatuation with the growth and forms of trees, whether youthful saplings or the oversized and majestic monuments of age.”

In “Old Orchard” we are reminded of the broken and leafless branches of “Frood Lake” (1939), yet now, the branches found in the foreground are draped in dramatic shadow, the strong sunlight approaching from behind. All at once, the grouping of towering apple trees brings to mind concepts of “order and tangle, delicacy and mass, man and nature.” So much of Carmichael's work centres on such dualities, the artist continually exploring magnificent contrasts of light and dark and stillness and movement within the wondrous Canadian landscape. Nature is both delicate and forceful in “Old Orchard,” with the magic of sunlight touching on the leaves that rustle in the soft wind. Carmichael allows us a glimpse of his most intimate surroundings, the strong colours, magnificent contours and the viscosity of paint heightening the painting's overall dramatic effect.

The National Gallery of Canada’s collection includes three works of art directly related to “Old Orchard.” Two preparatory works: a mixed media work on paper (”Study for Old Orchard,” circa 1940, NGC no. 37187) and an oil sketch (“Study for Old Orchard,” 1939, NGC no. 38420) were gifted by Carmichael’s daughter, Mary Mastin, to the institution, while a wood engraving of the subject (“Old Orchard,” circa 1940, NGC no. 36868) was purchased by the gallery in 1993. Each of the three present slight variations of the signature work’s composition while maintaining the command of the orchard’s trees in the foreground.

“Old Orchard” was exhibited twice by Carmichael during the year of its completion, Carmichael including the painting in both the Ontario Society of Artists Exhibition and the Canadian National Exhibition’s Painting and Water Colour showing in 1940. The importance of the painting and its role in representing the celebrated career of Franklin Carmichael would be fully realized following the death of the artist in 1945. “Old Orchard” was reproduced on the cover of the Art Gallery of Toronto’s Carmichael Memorial Exhibition in 1947 and was also featured on the cover of the Summer issue of Canadian Art magazine during the same year.

This painting was acquired from the artist by Herbert Laurence Rous of Rous and Mann Limited in the early 1940s and has remained in the family's collection until this offering.

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Franklin Carmichael
(1890 - 1945) Group of Seven, OSA, RCA, CSPWC

In 1911 Franklin Carmichael left his hometown of Orillia, Ontario and moved to Toronto so that he might pursue his interest in art at the Central Technical School and the Ontario College of Art. Later, he was employed by the commercial art firm Grip Ltd. and, subsequently, at Rous and Mann. Except for a brief period when he studied art in Belgium, Carmichael worked continuously in the field of commercial art until 1932. Following that time he accepted a position as Head of Graphic Design and Commercial Art at the Ontario College of Art, a position that allowed him to devote more of his time to painting. Georgian Bay, the North Shore of Lake Superior, and the Mattawa region were places around Ontario that Carmichael sketched. In later years the La Cloche Hills area north of Georgian Bay became both a favourite painting location and the site of the family cottage. His La Cloche paintings depict the rolling hills, glistening lakes, and dramatic skies so characteristic of the region.