Artwork by Robert Wakeham Pilot,  Place d’Armes, Quebec

Robert Pilot
Place d’Armes, Quebec

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1949 lower left
22 x 28.25 ins ( 55.9 x 71.8 cms )

Auction Estimate: $30,000.00$20,000.00 - $30,000.00

Price Realized $25,960.00
Sale date: September 24th 2020

Watson Art Galleries, Montreal
Private Collection, Toronto
“Robert W. Pilot”, Watson Art Galleries, Montreal, 1949, no. 11
Robert Pilot succeeded his stepfather, Maurice Cullen, in the school of Impressionist painting in Quebec. Cullen was known as the Father of Canadian Impressionism, an important figure in the Quebec art world, and took Pilot as an apprentice at his studio. Subsequently, Pilot was befriended and taught by William Brymner at the Royal Canadian Academy and received further training at the Art Association of Montreal. After serving in the army from 1916-1919, Pilot returned to re-enroll in Brymner’s classes. Soon after, he was extended the honour of being a guest exhibitor in the inaugural exhibition of the Group of Seven at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1920. He was joined by fellow Montrealers Randolph S. Hewton and Albert Robinson. This promising start to the young artist’s career marked Pilot as a significant contributor to the new school of Canadian landscape painting. However, as A.K. Prakash remarks, Pilot was similar to Cullen in that he, “preferred to paint inhabited places rather than the untamed wilderness, so he differed philosophically from the group’s nationalist approach to art.”

Pilot’s poetic compositions share the same search for identity that motivated J.W. Morrice, Clarence Gagnon and Albert Robinson - his Quebec predecessors and counterparts. Pilot preferred to paint the landscape of Quebec, which he often frequented, recording the local conditions of the time and of people co-existing with nature. “He generally excluded the new world from his record – there is, for example, a noticeable absence of automobiles in his compositions,” notes Prakash. “Rather, his paintings convey a precise image of a world that was soon to disappear.” “Place d’Armes, Quebec” was executed in 1949 and exhibited that same year at Watson Art Galleries. Its warmth and gentle brushstrokes are synonymous with the celebrated painter’s ability to depict the Quebec landscape with great charm and artistry.

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Robert Wakeham Pilot
(1898 - 1967) PRCA

Born in St. John's, Newfoundland, Robert Pilot moved to Montreal in 1910 when his widowed mother married well-known Canadian artist Maurice Cullen. Pilot found he was attracted to the artistic life as he helped his stepfather with chores in the studio and began sketching. He studied figure drawing at the Royal Canadian Academy and learned landscape painting with Cullen. As a student at the Art Association of Montreal, he was recognized as a gifted pupil by instructor William Brymner, who offered instruction to the penniless young artist free of charge on the condition that he would pay the fees when he was able.

After serving overseas in WWI he returned to Montreal and was invited to participate in the first Group of Seven exhibition in 1920. For a time he concentrated on the etching medium, with the desire to develop his own style apart from that of his stepfather. He was given the opportunity to study in Paris with the help of a generous patron and travelled to Paris in 1920. There he studied at the Academie Julian and exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1922. On his return to Canada he was elected an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy. Exhibiting with the RCA gave him more visibility and some of his works were acquired by the National Gallery of Canada. After several successful exhibitions he travelled abroad painting in France, Spain, and North Africa. In addition to oil paintings and etchings he worked in pastel and completed several mural commissions in public buildings. More successful shows followed and he continued to paint, although he served his country once again in WW2. His Canadian impressionist painting style was shaped by his years in France, the influence of his stepfather, Maurice Cullen, and the work of J. W. Morrice, whom he greatly admired. He was elected president of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1952. Pilot died in 1967 and was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1969.