Artwork by John Graham Coughtry,  Ruby
Thumbnail of Artwork by John Graham Coughtry,  Ruby Thumbnail of Artwork by John Graham Coughtry,  Ruby Thumbnail of Artwork by John Graham Coughtry,  Ruby

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Cowley Abbott
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

Lot #9

Graham Coughtry

oil on canvas
signed, titled and dated “August 1988” on the reverse
36 x 48 ins ( 91.4 x 121.9 cms )

Estimated: $15,000.00$12,000.00 - $15,000.00

Private Collection, Toronto
Graham Coughtry made a name for himself during the late 1950s, exhibiting with Michael Snow at Hart House, University of Toronto in 1955, and holding his first one-man show at Avrom Isaacs’ Greenwich Gallery in 1956. He was later accepted to include a work in the Second Biennial of Canadian Art in 1957, cementing his position in the Canadian art world. Finding like-minded colleagues and friends at Isaacs Gallery, Coughtry identified with the boundary-pushing practices of the group. Coughtry was very close with Robert Markle and the two artists frequently shared reference material and ideas throughout their careers. The themes of abstracted bodies and entwined couples were paramount to the practice of both artists, with Coughtry focusing nearly exclusively on the later.

The rich impasto surface of the figures in “Ruby” contrasts the wash of burgundy pigments of the background while opposing a bright emerald foreground, mirroring the tension and passion between the figures. Coughtry’s exaggerated and abstracted bodies, morphing and separating on the canvas, are never in stasis; they combine and divide as the viewer’s eye moves over the curved forms. Like the work of Giacometti, Coughtry’s figures retain a visceral tension of the human condition. The work oscillates between opposing binaries of life and death, pain and pleasure, and the abstract and figural.
Sale Date: June 15th 2022

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Cowley Abbott
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

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John Graham Coughtry
(1931 - 1999)

Graham Coughtry was born in 1931 at St-Lambert, Québec and lived in Toronto until his death in 1999. He became interested in art while at high school and later attended the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School. He studied at the Ontario College of Art where he graduated in 1953. He won an I. O.D.E. prize and a T. Eaton travelling scholarship in 1953 which financed his trip to France and Spain, 1954-55.

While in France he studied the work of Pierre Bonnard, and Alberto Giacometti whose drawings and paintings of ghost like forms were to influence him deeply. Before becoming well known as a painter, he had attracted attention as a graphic designer for the CBC-TV/Toronto. His drawing for the production “MacBeth” was reproduced in Canadian Art from another publication of the Annual of Advertising and Editorial Art. His work appeared again in Canadian Art for a special coverage on CBC/TV graphic art in which a drawing of his appeared.

His first exhibition was with Michael Snow at Hart House, University of Toronto, in 1955, and his first one-man show was held the following year at Avrom Isaacs's Greenwich Gallery in Toronto. He became, along with Snow, Joyce Weiland, Dennis Burton, Gordon Rayner, John Meredith and others, part of the "Isaacs Group" – artists joined by the radicalism of their art and by their interests in Dadaism and jazz.

In painting perhaps his first important achievement was the acceptance of his canvas “Night Interior” for the Second Biennial of Canadian Art in 1957. In 1958 Hugo McPherson in discussing art of Toronto and Montreal, placed Coughtry within the ranks of impressive talents. He made illustrations for the poems of K. A. McRobbie in 1960. Robert Fulford in 1961 writing notes on 24 Canadian artists found in his work a deep love of and wide grasp of the possibilities of paint. In 1959 Coughtry left the CBC for broader fields, doing commissions for the Beth David Synagogue, Toronto, in 1958 (sculptured walls); a mural at Malton International Airport (now Pearson International Airport), Toronto, in 1962, giving an interpretation of man’s yearning to fly – through the movements of a solitary figure in a series of panels. Elizabeth Kilbourn during that year has written a review in praise of his one figure series for their “emotional penetration and subtlety.” Evan Turner has found his Malton mural in some respects to be his most ambitious undertaking to that time. Here as in his other figure studies, he combined the colouring influence of Bonnard with the ghost like fire concepts of Giacometti, to create the unique style of his own. He also completed a bronze sculpture 16 feet high for the Yorkdale Plaza, Toronto, 1963. His paintings of two figures gained popularity among a number of prominent collectors.

Coughtry's work was almost exclusively concerned with the abstracted human figure and was characterized by rich colour and powerful impasto surfaces. Through his teaching at the Ontario College of Art and Design, the New School of Art, and York University, and by the example of his work, he had a substantial influence on a younger generation of painters in Toronto. He is represented in several public collections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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