Artwork by David Brown Milne,  Building the Porch III, 1922-23

David Milne
Building the Porch III, 1922-23

signed, dated “Oct 22-Feb 23” and inscribed “AP 22” lower right; catalogue raisonné no. 204.112
14.5 x 21 ins ( 36.8 x 53.3 cms ) ( sight )

Auction Estimate: $35,000.00$25,000.00 - $35,000.00

Price Realized $31,200.00
Sale date: June 8th 2023

Douglas Duncan
Mrs. R.L. Anderson, through the Freida James Studio, Toronto, 1951
By descent to Nancy Goss, Toronto
J. Morris Gallery, Toronto, 1994
Peter Ohler Fine Arts, Vancouver, 1994
Private Collection, Calgary
“Watercolours by David Milne”, Hart House, University of Toronto, March 1947 as “Wheelbarrow”
Douglas Duncan catalogue, National Gallery of Canada Archives, EW-180, as “Building the Porch (3rd wheelbarrow)”
“Milne List”, Art Association of Montreal, sent on 26 December 1923, no. 86, listed as “Porch”
Douglas Duncan Inventory of Milne Estate Pictures, 1954 as “Building the Porch II”
David Milne Jr. and David P. Silcox, “David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume 1: 1882‒1928”, Toronto, 1998, listed and reproduced page 372, no.204.112
Katherine Lochnan, “David Milne: Watercolours: Painting toward the Light”, Toronto/Vancouver, 2005, page 96
During the winter of 1922-23, David Milne and his wife Patsy lived at the summer house of James Clarke at Mount Riga, just south of Boston Corners in New York State. Clarke was Milne’s greatest friend and benefactor during the period, and he assisted the artist with encouragement, housing and financial support.

This work is one of three similar watercolours Milne executed of the same setting. Aside from offering the artist a comfortable, sheltered painting place, Milne’s porch and verandah views were a chance to explore the visual contrast of architectural structures with natural forms. Relying on outline only, Milne depicts visual depth with the elegant use of overlapping, stacked forms. The crowded shapes pull the viewer’s eye to the centre of the picture. The posts in the foreground direct our attention to the rectangular opening at the far end of the porch.

Milne’s watercolours from the early 1920s demonstrate his diverse exploration of technique. Writer Carol Troyen noted, "He undoubtedly used a stiff-bristled brush (probably one designed for oil paints) rather than a soft, sable watercolour brush for his drybrush technique, whose raspy, angular linearity flies in the face of conventional watercolour’s spontaneous, flowing quality. Milne referred to such works as ‘line drawings in colour’."

Milne’s immense skill as a draughtsman is clearly displayed here. Executed in a radically reductive palette of red-brown and blue only, the drybrush lines are simultaneously expressive and visually accurate. Carol Troyen observed, "...watercolour has become Mine’s principal vehicle for modernist expression. As a medium, it had the potential to challenge the expected, the conventional, the academic... The excitement of how he painted, and the radical nature of his style, is best found in his watercolours."

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David Brown Milne
(1881 - 1953) Canadian Group of Painters

Milne was born near Paisley, Ontario. A childhood interest in art, which revived while he was teaching, led him to take a correspondence course and eventually he travelled to New York City to continue his studies. This was somewhat of an exception in the early twentieth-century Canadian art scene as the majority of artists went to Europe to study. While in New York City, Milne worked as a commercial illustrator for several years before deciding to give up this work and devote his time to painting. Shortly after making this decision he moved to Boston Corners in New York.

Throughout his life Milne sought the peace and solitude of a rural life. In his paintings, Milne explored different viewpoints. He greatly admired the work of Tom Thomson but had little interest in the nationalistic approach of the Group of Seven. His themes range from landscapes to views of towns and cities, still lifes and imaginary subjects. His experiments with different media and changing viewpoints show his interest in the process of painting itself. In 1929, Milne returned to settle permanently in Canada, stopping for brief periods in Temagami, Weston, and Palgrave. He built a secluded cabin at Six Mile Lake, north of Orillia, and spent the next six years painting, for the most part, alone. Milne was interested in 'pure' painting, in "adventures in shape, colour, texture and space" as he called his watercolours of the 1930s and 1940s. The change from the less vibrant drybrush "adventures" to the fantasy watercolours is often attributed to the birth of his only child, David Jr., born to Milne's second wife when Milne was sixty. His young son encouraged him to adopt a new, vibrant and often whimsical approach to his art. Milne spent the rest of his life in Uxbridge, north of Toronto, exploring the Haliburton and Bancroft areas as well as the city of Toronto.