Artwork by Bertram Richard Brooker,  Delta Ice House

Bertram Brooker
Delta Ice House

oil on canvas
signed lower right; titled and inscribed “Hart House ‘42” on the stretcher
24 x 30 ins ( 61 x 76.2 cms )

Sold for $82,600.00
Sale date: November 20th 2018

Private Collection, Ontario
Bertram Brooker, Hart House Art Gallery, University of Toronto, January 1942
Bertram Brooker (1888-1955), The Morris Gallery, Toronto, October 23 - November 6, 1971, no. 14
Bertram Brooker (1888-1955), exhibition catalogue, The Morris Gallery, Toronto, October 23 - November 6, 1971, cat. no.14, reproduced plate 10
James King, Bertram Brooker: Life & Work, Art Canada Institute [online publication], Toronto, 2018
Dennis Reid, Bertram Brooker (1888-1955), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1979, pages 16-17
Joyce Zemans, “First Fruits: The World and Spirit Paintings [Bertram Brooker]”, Provincial Essays, no. 7, 1989
As Dennis Reid notes, though Bertram Brooker lived in Toronto for much of his life, the artist always considered himself a “Winnipegger” at heart. Brooker’s affinity for his adopted hometown ran deep: after emigrating to Canada from Croydon, England with his family in 1905, Brooker settled for a time in Portage la Prairie and Neepawa, Manitoba, before finding work at local newspapers in Winnipeg. Long after he moved to Toronto in 1921 to pursue a career in advertising, the polymath’s strong ties to Manitoba continued to be reflected in many of his subjects throughout the 1930s and 1940s; of those ties, his life-long friendship with the artist Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald would have the most profound impact on his growth as a painter.

A self-taught painter and graphic artist, Brooker was among the first artists in Canada to champion abstract art in the 1920s, though his groundbreaking experimental works at first failed to captivate contemporary audiences. After meeting Fitzgerald on a visit to Winnipeg in the summer of 1929, Brooker largely abandoned pure abstraction. Joyce Zemans suggests a reason for this ambivalence, writing that the artist “came to realize that most people could not respond to his abstract ‘world and spirit paintings’ and turned from his early experiments in abstraction.” Influenced and inspired by Fitzgerald’s subtle handling of form and sensitive depictions of his urban surroundings, Brooker instead began to explore the potential of abstraction as a means of representing the inner life of figural and organic structures.

With its dynamic synthesis of abstract and representational forms, “Delta Ice House” depicts a building on the property of a Brooker family cottage on Lake Manitoba at Delta, north of Portage la Prairie. In its subject matter alone, the work most closely resembles Fitzgerald’s landscapes of the 1930s; however, the energetic diagonal lines within the natural structures; the delicate, muted colours applied with a soft touch; and the reduction of familiar organic forms to their most essential, symbolic states is emblematic of Brooker’s singular, harmonious approach to painting. Though the artist would return to abstraction in his career, hybrid works such as “Delta Ice House” are important documents of Brooker’s significant shift to a more representational idiom.
Fetching more than three times its opening bid, this exceptional work by Brooker set a new auction record for the painter during the Fall 2018 Live Auction of Important Canadian Art.

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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 and later to Toronto in 1921. He acquired a reputation as a writer, painter, musician, and poet. Brooker was a charter member of the Canadian Group of Painters and he won the Governor General's Award for fiction in 1936 for "Think of the Earth".
Bertram Brooker is 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 captures both spiritual and commercial perspectives.

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.