Artwork by John Colin Forbes,  Conway Creek

J.C. Forbes
Conway Creek

oil on board
signed lower right; titled on the reverse
13 x 18 ins ( 33 x 45.7 cms )

Auction Estimate: $900.00$700.00 - $900.00

Price Realized $720.00
Sale date: April 27th 2021

Private Collection, Ontario

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John Colin Forbes
(1846 - 1925) OSA RCA

Born in Toronto, Ontario, son of Duncan Forbes, Scottish immigrant, and Jane Turner. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto. He studied painting under T. Mower Martin. Forbes’ painting “Toronto Bay” won the attention of judges at the Prov. Exh. of 1866, where he was awarded a diploma. This award gave him encouragement to study art in England at the South Kensington Museum (1866-67) and the Royal Academy Schools, London (1868-69) and on the continent at the Union International des Beaux-Arts, Paris.

He returned to Canada in the early 1870’s and for a time lived in Hamilton. He moved to Toronto, where he completed many commissions. He married Laura Gertrude Holbrook in Ottawa (they had three sons, one of whom became an outstanding portrait painter, Kenneth Forbes).

Around 1873, he painted his famous portrait of a girl with a fan, entitled “Beware! I Know a Maiden Fair to See. Take Care!” as his RCA diploma work, deposited in the National Gallery of Canada. Forbes’ style was brilliant, in his portraits there is a photographic likeness and through superb handling of light and shadow he was able to create mood. He remains today one of Canada’s finest portrait painters. In Ottawa, he received his first important commission, to paint the portrait of the Governor-General of Canada, the Earl of Dufferin, which led next to his portrait of Dufferin’s daughter, Lady Helen Blackwood.

Forbes went west with other artists, on the invitation of William Van Horne, to paint scenes of the Rocky Mountains as advertisement to bring tourists from all over the world to see that part of Canada (1885/6). His next important commissions came from members of the Canadian Liberal party, who wished to honour William Ewart Gladstone by having his portrait painted and presented to the National Liberal Club of London, England (1891). The portrait won critical praise in the London Times. This was the first of seven different portraits of Gladstone, the last one painted three-quarters of an hour before his death, and showing the aged statesman sitting at his desk. As a companion piece, the NLC later commissioned Forbes to paint a portrait of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who succeeded Gladstone as Liberal Leader. He also painted the late King Edward and Queen Alexandra, commissioned by the Government of Canada, and for this commission Forbes was accorded sittings at Buckingham Palace. These portraits were destroyed by the great fire in Ottawa that consumed the parliament buildings.

Forbes died in Toronto at the age of 79.

Literature Source:
"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 1: A-F, 5th Edition, Revised and Expanded", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1997