Artwork by Robert Markle,  Falling Figure Series VIII

Robert Markle
Falling Figure Series VIII

tempera on paper
signed and dated lower right; titled on a gallery label on the reverse
24 x 36 ins ( 61 x 91.4 cms ) ( sight )

Auction Estimate: $1,000.00$800.00 - $1,000.00

Price Realized $826.00
Sale date: February 1st 2022

The Isaacs Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Ontario

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Robert Markle
(1936 - 1990)

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, the son of Mrs. B.V. Markle, he was educated there, and then moved to Toronto, where he studied at the Ontario College of Art. He began exhibiting his work in important group shows like the Canadian Society of Graphic Art, Toronto (1960), a graphic exhibition at London Art Gallery, Ont. (1961); Women’s Committee Show of Art Gallery of Toronto (1962); Annual Exhibition of the Hamilton Art Gallery (1963); Spring Show of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1963) and through the commercial art galleries in a four-man show at The Isaacs Gallery (1963) and a six-man show at The Banfer Gallery, NYC (1963). His first important break came from his one-man show at the Isaacs Gallery in 1963, when he exhibited twenty black and white paintings of burlesque figures which The Toronto Telegram noted as follows, “Markle adjures color in his pictures in favor of stark black and white. Burlesque is a calculated and coldly artificial art and Markle underlines this in his bold portrayals. He does not prettify it. His hard edged light patterns visually echo the hollow ritual of the stripper’s craft…. Markle’s unsentimental gaze turns up moments of surprising pictorial power.” Describing his technique the following year, Barrie Hale noted, “ Markle’s figures are rendered in black water-base tempera, on heavy white drawing paper. He uses only the black paint and various dilutions of it to gray washes. The pure white which remains in the finished work is the white of the paper itself, and the figure is suspended in a black field. The result is that the working organization of the tempera within the figure itself is a s fine as that of the large oils.”

In 1965, his work was included in the exhibition Eros 65 at the Dorothy Cameron Gallery. Of the several works Markle had in the show, “Lovers 1” was ordered removed from the walls of the Gallery by detectives of the Toronto Morality Bureau. Six paintings by other artists were also removed by the detectives and charges were laid against the gallery owner after she rehung Markle’s painting in an attempt to reach a ruling in court. Although responsible and qualified witnesses appeared in court in an effort to give defence evidence, their testimony was not allowed to be heard. Their point was that the items in question were works of art shows to a limited audience rather than the general public. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court of Ontario on the point that these items were works of art and therefore evidence in their defence by art expert should have been allowed just as experts are consulted on various subjects in other court cases. Dorothy Cameron’s appeal was dismissed with one dissenting vote, which was enough to allow an automatic appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa. But the hearing was denied after several out of court sessions laid the basis for the formal denial of a hearing. Her only resource was to work towards having the law changed.

The following year, Markle exhibited two of his falling figure series at the National Gallery of Canada in the show, Canadian Water Colours, Drawings and Prints, 1966. In 1968, a retrospective show of his work was held at the McIntosh Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Western Ontario and later that same year, he participated in a three-man show with Graham Coughtry and Gordon Rayner at the Arts II building, McMaster University, Hamilton, all three artist having held their first one-man show at the Isaacs Gallery. Kay Kritzwiser recalled how Avrom Isaacs described Markle as, “… a secretive guy, he lets only about five people really know him. No one’s allowed in his gallery, not even me. He’s a slow developer, but his work is in continuous evolution. He came into the gallery the other day with 40 tempera drawings – said he’d destroyed 10 for everyone in the lot.” An accident while riding his motor bike in 1969 left him with two broken arms and internal injuries. After recovering from his accident, he moved with his wife to a farm at Holstein, Ontario, near Mount Forest.

After nine years, he returned to the Isaacs Gallery in a one-man show mainly of female figures. This exhibition proved to be an exciting event. It was opened by Pierre Berton and others attending included Patrick Watson of T.V., who flew from New York City for the occasion, Michael Sarrazin, actor from Hollywood, Peter Newman and Tom Hedley of Maclean’s magazine and Markle’s first painting was purchased for $900. A recent book on Canadian nude painting by Jerrold Morris described Markle’s figure painting as, “Rich and dark and the most deeply sensual among Canadian nudes.”

Literature Source:
"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 4: Little - Myles", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1978