Artwork by Frederick Horsman Varley,  Spring Meadow, Don Valley

Fred Varley
Spring Meadow, Don Valley

oil on canvas
titled and Varley Inventory Number 1044 stamped on the stretcher
9.25 x 13.25 ins ( 23.5 x 33.7 cms )

Auction Estimate: $35,000.00$25,000.00 - $35,000.00

Price Realized $28,320.00
Sale date: May 28th 2019

Masters Gallery, Calgary
Private Collection, Calgary
Christopher Varley, F.H. Varley, A Centennial Exhibition, The Edmonton Art Gallery, 1981, page 74
Peter Varley, Varley, Toronto, 1983, reproduced page 83
“Spring Meadow, Don Valley” is a masterful landscape painting produced during Frederick Varley’s time spent in the Toronto area during the early 1920s. Varley’s reputation was established nationally as he exhibited with fellow members of the Group of Seven at this time.

Discussing the painter’s work in Toronto, Peter Varley notes that following Varley’s move to Thornhill, his weekend painting trips to Toronto “revitalized his interest in painting, particularly in oil, which allowed more freedom than did watercolours in searching out
a landscape’s rhythms and compositional structures.” Referencing “Spring Meadow, Don Valley”, the author observes that the “rise and fall of vertical tree forms plays against horizontal clouds and the cart track. The textural notes of spring growth in the foreground are early, if not entirely successful, indications of some of his later techniques and perceptions.”

Varley’s depiction of a picturesque locale in the heart of Toronto exemplifies his rich handling of the medium. The artist’s stylized landscape underscores his skill in translating the very essence of the subject through a warm and subtle palette.

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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.