Artwork by Arthur Henry Howard Heming,  Nearing a Fur Post

Arthur Heming
Nearing a Fur Post

oil on canvas
signed lower left; signed and titled on the stretcher
35 x 45 ins ( 88.9 x 114.3 cms )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$10,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $48,000.00
Sale date: June 15th 2022

Collection of General Motors, Oshawa, Ontario
Private Collection, Ontario
James Stone, “Arthur Heming: Chronicler of the North,” Museum London, London, 2013, reproduced page 39 as “A Dog Brigade Nearing a Fur Post”
W.J. Phillips, ‘The Art of Arthur Heming’, “The Beaver”, September 1940, page 25, reproduced page 24 as “Dog Brigade Nearing a Fur Post” as the cover of the article
Editorial Department, “The Toronto Star”, Arthur Heming Fonds, National Gallery of Canada Archives, undated, unpaginated, listed as “Nearing a Fur Post”
Arthur Heming painted from experience, having spent many years involved in lumbering, mining, railroading, big game hunting and the rugged lifestyle of living on the land. Heming embarked on expeditions into the wilderness to capture romantic scenes of adventure for illustrations in books and publications. Life in the backcountry captured his interest, not in terms of the sentimentality of the picturesque countryside or forest, but in the power of nature. Heming wrote of his inspiration to explore and paint the wilds of Canada. He referenced the brutal death of his uncle as the impetus in his imagination towards “forever wondering what is going on in the great northern forest not just this week, this month, or this season, but what is actually happening day by day, throughout the cycle of an entire year? It was that thought that fascinated me.”

According to a letter dated 1955 from Mr. W.E. Austin, Public Relations Manager of General Motors (GM), to Mr. T.E. Lee, three paintings by Heming were hanging in the offices of the Senior Executives of GM. “Nearing a Fur Post” was one of these paintings, acquired for a calendar series that GM designed to exhibit different methods of transportation. “Nearing a Fur Post” illustrates a team of strong husky dogs pulling a sled full of mail, slicing through the snow with a determined driver at the helm. To the right, a keen observer will notice the whiplash and tail end of a snowshoe belonging to a second driver speeding ahead. This early 1930s painting by Heming is executed with vivid colour, sublime light, and exaggerated drama.

Heming does not belong to a particular school, movement or group in the sphere of Canadian art history. He was very much an individualist. According to artist, W.J. Phillips: “The idea of painting seemed to obsess him. As one canvas neared completion he visualized another. He painted as if impelled by supernal forces, setting down his experiences, dramatizing life as he knew it on the fringes of civilization, and interpreting by the same act the wild beauty of the land of his birth.”

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Arthur Henry Howard Heming
(1870 - 1940)

Born in Paris, Ontario, Heming moved with family to Hamilton, Ontario when he was 12. Heming had dreams of becoming an artist and traveller, a dream which led to his study in the evenings at the Hamilton Art School. There at age of 16 he was appointed assistant to the Master where he continued to teach for 16 years (1887-1890). His search for physical challenge led him into the field of sports where he excelled. Heming played lacrosse, football and was a champion at cross-country running.

He started his trips to the wilderness at the age of 16. About 1890 he became a free lance illustrator and submitted many ‘chalk drawings’ to the Hamilton Spectator. Later he made a snowshoe trip to the Temiskaming area where he got material for a series of illustrations on Iroquois Indians for Harper’s Weekly. By 1899 Heming was in New York City where he studied at the Art Student’s League under Frank Vincent Dumond. By 1904 Heming was in London, England, where he studied under Frank Brangwyn who was a noted muralist and etcher. While attending one of his art classes in Canada or the United States, Heming was told that he was partially colour blind. Fearing he would make wrong colour judgments he worked in black, white and yellow until he was sixty years old. It was then that he learned through his artist friend Richard Jack, R.A., that he was no longer colour blind.

His illustrations adorned the pages of many publications of the world and he was hailed for this internationally. His first book “Spirit Lake” was published in 1907. The book deals with the era of the Hudson Bay Company when the wilderness was the free realm of the Indian, and the Indian’s life is very much revealed in the book. By 1910 Heming was back in Toronto, though he moved and travelled frequently in Canada and the U.S. He was one of the first artists to occupy the Studio Building in Toronto built by Lawren S. Harris and Dr. James MacCallum in 1914. Heming held a solo show in Toronto in 1920 and the following year ten of his paintings were purchased by the Royal Ontario Museum.

Heming’s last book “The Living Forest” was published in 1925 when it also appeared in serial form in ‘Mclean’s Magazine’. W. J. Phillips in his article on Heming explained how he moved into colour, “Heming painted pictures in colour for exactly ten years. Prior to that he worked in black and white and yellow. ‘The Living Forest’ is illustrated with pictures done in this technique. Very charming they are, with the decorative quality of a Japanese print. His first picture in colour was ’To Dance the New Year In’. During the course of his career Heming’s were reproduced in international illustrated periodicals including ‘Illustrated London News’, ‘Le Monde Illustré’, ‘New York Times Magazine’ and ‘Berliner Illustrate Zeitung’. A solo show of his paintings was held in London, England at the gallery of Messrs. Frost & Reed, Ltd. The exhibition was a triumph as were his magazine illustrations.

Heming was elected an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1934. He gave up painting in 1940 because of a sudden failure of the muscles of his hands. Nine months after he stopped painting he passed away in Hamilton, Ontario. He had been working on his fourth book.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979