Artwork by Frederick Horsman Varley,  The Valley of the Don

Fred Varley
The Valley of the Don

oil on board
signed and dated 1925 lower left; Varley Inventory Number 673
11.5 x 15.75 ins ( 29.2 x 40 cms )

Auction Estimate: $90,000.00$70,000.00 - $90,000.00

Price Realized $42,000.00
Sale date: November 23rd 2017

Roberts Gallery, Toronto
The Art Emporium, Vancouver
Private Collection, Calgary
F.H. Varley: A Centennial Exhibition, The Edmonton Art Gallery, October 16 - December 6, 1981, no. 71 (touring exhibition)
Christopher Varley, F.H. Varley, A Centennial Exhibition, The Edmonton Art Gallery, 1981, pages 72, 74 and 190
“The Valley of the Don” is a masterful landscape painting from Frederick Varley's time spent in Toronto during the first half of 1920s. During this period, Varley's reputation was established nationally as he exhibited with fellow members of the Group of Seven. In the fall of 1925 the artist received a full time teaching position at the Ontario College of Art and “further supplemented his income in 1925-26 by taking on private students in his home on Yonge Street.” Varley was praised by both his OCA and private students as “a valuable and inspiring teacher.” The artist would remain in the city until the summer of 1926 when he relocated to Vancouver to teach at the newly established Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts.

Varley's depiction of a picturesque locale in the heart of Toronto exemplifies his rich handling of the medium. The lush foliage of the Don Valley is captured in early autumn beneath darkening mauve-tinged clouds. Varley's stylized landscape underscores his skill in depicting light and shadow, translating the very essence of his subject.

“The Valley of the Don” was exhibited in “F.H. Varley, A Centennial Exhibition”, an exhibition first held at The Edmonton Art Gallery in 1981 which travelled to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the National Gallery of Canada, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

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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.