Artwork by Frederick Grant Banting,  Seville, Spain, 1933

Frederick Banting
Seville, Spain, 1933

oil on board
signed lower right; signed, titled and stamped (twice) “F.G. Banting M.D. University of Toronto” verso
8.5 x 10.5 ins ( 21.6 x 26.7 cms )

Sold for $20,060.00
Sale date: September 24th 2020

Provenance:
Private Collection, Nova Scotia
Sotheby’s Canada, auction, Toronto, November 24, 2008, Lot 24
Private Collection, Toronto
While the trips that Sir Frederick Banting took with A.Y. Jackson throughout Canada are fairly well known and documented through their artworks, Banting’s time spent in Europe is rarely portrayed in his painting. The scientist and physician first went to Europe during World War I, where he fought in the Battle of Cambrai, France. His next major trip was in 1925, shortly after he married his first wife, Marion Robertson. The couple embarked on an extended tour of Europe together, including a visit to Stockholm, where Banting received his Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of insulin in 1923. A few small oil paintings exist from this trip, depicting the European landscape in an Impressionist style, prior to his encounter with Jackson.

“Seville, Spain” presents a rare composition of the European landscape, incorporating the teachings of Jackson and Banting’s familiarity with the work of the Group of Seven. This fine oil sketch, dating to 1930, depicts a unique view of the Spanish town in a Canadian style; the clustered buildings with slanted roofs bring to mind Jackson’s rural Quebec village paintings, and the bright blue and white sky recall the reductive and modernist approach of the Group’s landscapes.

According to Sotheby’s Canada’s past cataloguing of this artwork, it was painted in November of 1933, while Frederick Banting attended an International Cancer Congress in Madrid, Spain.

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Frederick Grant Banting
(1891 - 1941)

Born in 1891 in Alliston, Ontario, Frederick Banting studied medicine at the University of Toronto. He received his MB degree in 1916 and immediately joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps and was sent overseas. He was wounded in France and awarded the Military Cross for bravery. Following the first World War, he continued his medical studies, receiving his M.D. degree in 1922. He had a particular interest in diabetes. Together with his assistant, Charles Best, Banting started the work which would lead to the lifesaving discovery of insulin. For this innovation, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1923. After the war, he had briefly set up a practice in London, Ontario. The practice was slow in getting started, so with some time on his hands, he was gripped with an urge to paint. This came about one day, when he happened by a London shop, with a display of artist’s paints in the window. He purchased them and embarked on teaching himself to paint. As his medical career took off, he had little time to devote to this passion, but after winning the Nobel Prize, he was able to dedicate some time to art. He became a collector as well as a painter. In 1927, he approached A.Y. Jackson, wishing to purchase one of his war sketches. This was the beginning of a long friendship. He saw one of Lawren Harris’ canvases and went to the artist’s studio to discuss this work and they became friends. Banting shared an appreciation of the beauty of the rugged Canadian landscape with both artists.

That same year, Jackson and Banting went on their first sketching excursion together. They travelled to St-Jean Port Jolie, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence. There, Banting received his first instruction in plein air landscape painting technique from Jackson. He had a natural aptitude and his works were accepted at juried exhibitions, but he was always afraid that his work had been accepted because of his reputation as a scientist, rather than its own merit. After a time, he no longer submitted works for exhibition. He was also reluctant to sell his paintings. He had an ingenious way of supporting the artists of his acquaintance. When a collector indicated a wish to purchase one of his paintings, he instructed them to purchase a work from another local artist, and he would then exchange it for one of his own works.

In July of 1927, Banting travelled with Jackson to the Arctic. On a trip lasting two and a half months, they encountered a variety of weather and light conditions in the Arctic landscape. They returned with many sketches. The one Jackson painted of Bache Post was donated to the National Gallery of Canada by the Minister of the Interior. Over the years Banting accompanied Jackson on many sketching trips. At different times, they returned to the North shore of the St. Lawrence, travelled to the Great Slave Lake area, and visited the Group of Seven haunt, Georgian Bay. At times they were joined by other artists. Banting thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor painting experience. He invented a system for getting his completed sketches home, without spoiling them, while they were still wet. He placed match sticks between the panels as spacers, a trick that A.Y. Jackson continued to use for the rest of his career. Jackson spoke of Banting’s great determination and hard work on these sketching trips, often getting up to sketch long before breakfast.

When the Second World War began, he began to devote himself exclusively to medical research, serving as a medical liaison officer between the British and North American medical services.