Lot #21

Miller Brittain
Study of a Female Figure

red and black charcoal on paper
initialed and dated 1955 lower centre
16 x 12.75 ins ( 40.6 x 32.4 cms ) ( sight )

Bidding has concluded on this item.
Price Realized: $1,320.00
Provenance:
Private Collection, Toronto

Share this item with your friends

Miller Gore Brittain
(1912 - 1968)

Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, his early art training was received at the Miss Holt’s Art School in 1921. Later he attended the Art Student’s League, 1930-2, where he studied under Harry Wickey in etching, Mahroni Young, George Wright and Willard McNulty. His most brilliant development was in graphics particularly in a series of drawings he did for the Toronto Saturday Night. These began appearing about 1937 – they were social comments in a highly expressive presentation. The Toronto Saturday Night carried the following comment in 1942 “while obviously influenced by Gropper, Mr. Brittain had his own feeling about humanity and an immense skill in exhibition of character in such little things as the hang of a trouser leg and the loose clutch of a hand on a pipe.”

He was working on a mural for the St. John Tuberculosis Hospital showing causes of the disease – however, this work was interrupted when he enlisted in the R.C.A.F. in 1942. After training he went overseas where he served in the 78th Squadron of the R.A.F. Bomber Command and completed 37 operational sorties in Halifaxes. He was commissioned in November of 1944 and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. In April of 1945 he was appointed an official war artist and arrived back in Canada in 1945. He was a founding member of the Federation of Canadian Artists in 1941, which was one of the main forces behind the formation of the Canada Council in 1957.

In 1947 he started work in paintings based on themes from the Bible using pastel and egg tempera, which provided him with a means for better expressive powers on human figures. In 1947 Brittain won a prize from the Canadian Society of Graphic Arts and the next year he held two one person shows at St. John and New Brunswick Museum and in Dayton, Ohio, at the Dayton Museum.

An article in Weekend Magazine by Fred Hazel showed some of Brittain’s works and a photo of the artist and his daughter. Hazel quotes Brittain as follows “An artist works as as individual ... You get so involved in what you’re doing it doesn’t matter where you’re doing it. I don’t see art as a competitive thing ... Nature crowds me if I try to work directly from it ... Painting is really more like Wordsworth’s definition of a poetry, emotion recollected in tranquility. I start with an abstract, and then as I work, shape and colour and forms begin to emerge.” One of the paintings shown in the article entitled “Figures On Beach” confirm his above statements. The elongated figures are involved with a large beach ball, they are almost frozen, and their simplification gives an abstract quality to the whole scene. Muted colours of sand and sky are beautifully blended, providing the canvas with a strong unity. He signed his canvases MGB with the last two digits of the date.

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