Artwork by Frederick Simpson Coburn,  Horse-Drawn Sleigh, Winter

Frederick Coburn
Horse-Drawn Sleigh, Winter

oil on canvas, laid down on canvas
mounted to a support;

signed and dated 1930 lower left
23.25 x 31 ins ( 59.1 x 78.7 cms )

Auction Estimate: $7,000.00$5,000.00 - $7,000.00

Price Realized $4,720.00
Sale date: November 19th 2019

Private Collection, Montreal
Evelyn Lloyd Coburn, F.S. Coburn: Beyond the Landscape, Erin, Ontario, 1996, pages 67, 78 and 83
In the winter of 1914, Frederick S. Coburn erected a studio suitable for his artistic needs in Upper Melbourne, Quebec, across the road from his father’s general store and set well back in the trees. It was here that Coburn began “working on half a dozen winter things, all Canadian - logging and life in the woods.” In his endeavour to find a central theme, Coburn started with illustrating the Quebec winter countryside with “its acres of snow, vivid blue skies, shifting clouds, birches and fir trees.” After perfecting the landscape, Coburn began adding figures to the scenes to add vigour and vitality, and soon the artist’s quintessential winter scene with horse and sleigh in oil was solidified. This was in fact a composition that Coburn had previously illustrated for William Henry Drummond’s 1901 poem, Johnnie Courteau, with “a horse and a sleigh approaching from the distance in a panorama of white snow-covered fields, rolling hills and evergreens.”

This classic oeuvre won Coburn much acclaim, so much so that the artist was hard pressed to meet the demands of his clientele in Montreal, who were introduced to the paintings by the Watson Art Gallery and wanted a memory of the Quebec countryside for their own home.

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Frederick Simpson Coburn
(1871 - 1960) RCA

Born at Upper Melbourne, Quebec, he frequently sketched horses as a boy. In later years Dr. William Henry Drummond, aware of the boy’s talent was instrumental in having him sent to Notman and Sandham in Montreal for advice about his gift. Coburn was guided to the Arts and Crafts School in Montreal where he studied under C. S. Stevenson. In the following years he attended class under Carl Hecker in New York; Erhentraut Skarbina at the Academy of Berlin; classes in Munich; at the Ecole des Beaux Arts under Jean Léon Gérôme; under Henry Tonks in London at the Slade School; under Abrecht de Vrient in Antwerp.

In Antwerp he married Malvina Schiepers, a painter in her own right, and they had a studio in that city for about 20 years, returning to Canada on visits. About 1898 Coburn met Dr. Drummond again, who was by then gaining fame for his poems. Dr. Drummond recommended Coburn to the G. P. Putnam Publishing Company in New York, to illustrate his poems of habitant life. This led him into the career of a successful illustrator, and also paid for his studies abroad. Coburn was almost swamped with commissions in this field. While studying under Tonks in London he did paintings for the London Sporting and Dramatic News, and illustrations for the London News. He had a deep interest in the “Luminous rolling skies” of J. H. Weissenbrunch and the plowmen and horses of James Maris which showed up in his own work a few years later. Colburn’s illustrations for Drummond’s poems were done with black and white oil paintings, still owned by the Drummond family in Montreal.

About 1914 he turned to oils in colour through the encouragement of Maurice Cullen and a little later on decided to specialize in the painting of horse and oxen drawn sleds in Laurentian and Eastern Townships settings. His very first painting on this theme was kept by him during his lifetime. Those that followed however were bought by eager collectors mainly through The Stevens Art Gallery, in Montreal. Gerald Stevens tells us in his book, “In the years to come Mr. Coburn was to hire many a farmer and his team to pose for studies and sketches made in oils, or with crayons with which, in a few strokes, he could catch the essential line and and rhythm of a composition later to be transferred to a canvas.” William Colgate in his Canadian Art described his output of sleigh scenes as follows, “The subject may be, and sometimes is, repeated, but the light which illumines it rarely is.”

Coburn also during his career painted a few nudes, still lives, portraits, figure studies and some summer landscapes. He did not, however, receive official recognition until 1920, when he became an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy. Seven years later, he was made full member. Coburn’s pictures were so much in demand that he never had any on hand for a solo show. His other media included watercolours, a few engravings on wood, and etchings. He was also a photographer of note.
He was a member of the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal (Pres. 1942-2). In 1936 he received an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law conferred upon him by Bishop’s University at Lennoxville, Quebec.

He is represented in the collections of the National Gallery, Brisbane, Australia; The Tate Gallery, London, England; in the National Gallery of Canada by two of his canvases of horse drawn sleighs in Quebec winter settings; in galleries in Japan; Belgium; Europe; and the USA.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977