Artwork by Charles Jones Way,  Niagara Falls

C.J. Way
Niagara Falls

signed, dated 1864 and inscribed “5” lower left
30 x 48 ins ( 76.2 x 121.9 cms )

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

Price Realized $24,000.00
Sale date: June 15th 2022

G. Blair Laing Limited, Toronto
Collection of Jules and Fay Loeb, Ottawa
Kaspar Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Dennis R. Reid, “Our Own Country Canada: Being an Account of the National Aspirations of the Principal Landscape Artists in Montreal and Toronto, 1860-1890”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1980, no. 2 as “Niagara in the Time of the Red Man”
Hilliard T. Goldfarb, “Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860-1918”, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, 2009, page 35
Dennis R. Reid, “Our Own Country Canada: Being an Account of the National Aspirations of the Principal Landscape Artists in Montreal and Toronto, 1860-1890”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1980, page 38, reproduced page 39
William Notman, “North American Scenery, Being Selections from C.J. Way’s Studies, 1863-64”, Montreal, 1864, unpaginated, reproduced
Charles Jones Way was a keen watercolourist and a reflective man. He exemplified the trend towards naturalism during the 1860s and 1870s, during which time the artist grew in prominence. Way’s aim was to remain faithful to the landscape and display the grandeur of its rolling hills, oceans and horizons. The vast range of his subject matter mirrors Way’s talent across various medium, as the artist was a master of watercolour, oil, pastel, pen and chalk.

Many Canadian and American painters of this period saw Niagara Falls as ‘subject par excellence’ within the domain of the sublime. According to Hilliard T. Goldfarb, “When eighteenth century writers thought of water as sublime phenomenon, they saw the ocean, the raging sea, that is, expanses of water stretching as far as the eye could see, horizontally. Niagara Falls, however, is a mass of water falling vertically, as apt to cause the holy terror.” Way presents a spectacular view of Niagara Falls in this commanding watercolour, expressing the immensity and force of nature. The beauty of the vista is sublime, evoking a sense of awe and trepidation at the roaring water of the falls, while vividly and serenely highlighting the majestic scale of Niagara Falls in stark contrast to the small figures. The three figures stand in wonderment at the crashing water, their senses overwhelmed with the sights and sounds before them. Way has captured a reverence for life without idealizing it. The fine details of the composition turn the landscape into a delicate tribute to life. The brilliant use of expressive light and nuanced, descriptive detail portrays a sense of sublime excitement and is a testament to Way’s incomparable skill at capturing the essence of a time and place.

During his career, Way worked with the well-respected Canadian photographer, William Notman. Way’s paintings were photographed for inclusion in many of Notman’s books. Thomas King expressed high praise for Way in the foreword to Notman’s 1863 volume of photography, writing: “Perhaps there has been no artist, certainly no watercolour painter, resident in Canada, who has given to us so much variety of subject... and has so happily caught the peculiarities of our Canadian landscape.” Following the popularity of this book, Notman published a volume of twelve photographic reproductions of Way’s work in 1864, entitled “North American Scenery, Being Selections from C.J. Way’s Studies, 1864-64”. “Niagara Falls” was included in this volume, further celebrating the painter’s monumental depiction of the natural wonder.

“What was the great appeal of Way’s work?” asks Dennis Reid. “One cannot say with much degree of certainty, as few of his early works have, as yet, come into public collections. But from the evidence of the Notman photos it was chiefly, at this point in his career, a quality of drama. There is a large watercolour in the Loeb Collection in Toronto, “Niagara in the Time of the Red Man” of 1864, in which the sky, in the fiery colours of the great English Romantic, Turner, races as fiercely as the plummeting waters. Way has observed closely and displays an evident concern to describe the water in an exact, naturalistic way. But the force of his imagery lies in the great, broad movements of the composition. It is equally so with the Notman photos of his sepias. Way is an impressive craftsman, who controls tone and texture expertly, orchestrating each image like a small symphony in tribute to nature’s power and energy. That would certainly have appealed.”
Historical Canadian art showed continued strength in the Spring 2022 Live Auction with a fantastic record setting result for Charles Jones Way. “Niagara Falls”, the artist's monumental depiction of the natural wonder soared to $24,000 (auction record) in the evening auction.

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Charles Jones Way
(1835 - 1919) RCA

Charles Way was born in Dartmouth, Devon, England. His father William Hopkins Way was an artist. At a young age Way showed talent in painting, and studied at Somerset House in London. He continued his training at the Central School of Art, first at Marlborough House, then at the South Kensington School of Art, studying with Sir Richard Redgrave. Way graduated in 1858 as an artist and instructor.

Way arrived in Montreal in 1858, and established a studio where he taught drawing and painting as well as working for William Notman as a colorist. He is said to have assisted in the foundation of the Art Association of Montreal in 1860, the year that his paintings were prominently exhibited at the Industrial Exhibition held at Montreal's Crystal Place, and praised in the “Daily Witness” (September 1, 1860). In 1863, Way exhibited four paintings in the National Academy of Design in New York. He is said to have met Robert S. Duncanson in 1863 and traveled with Duncanson (as well as Allan Edson) to Europe after the Civil War. Duncanson's work is said to have increased the spirit of the sublime in Way's landscapes.
In 1864, the book "North American Scenery, Being selections from C.J. Way's Studies, 1863-64", a pictorial album of views of North American Scenery with 12 mounted photographs by W. Notman was produced from Way's sepia watercolour studies by Notman. In 1865, "Notman's Photographic Selections, Second Series", reproduced Way's English and Welsh scenic landscapes, the result of a trip to England in 1864. In 1865, Way exhibited paintings with the Royal British Society of Artists and the Royal Academy of Arts in London as well as exhibiting his work in Montreal in 1864 and 1865.

He was President of the Society of Canadian Artists (formed in 1867) in 1870 with whom he exhibited in their second exhibition (1870). Also in 1870, Way was elected a Councillor of the Art Association of Montreal (AAM) and his painting “Monte Rotondo” was selected as the AAM's first purchase. The same year Way was elected to the Board of the Arts and Manufacturers - he was the only artist - because they intended to establish an art school.

In the spring of 1873, due to a smallpox outbreak in Montreal, Way and his family travelled to London, England. In 1874, they moved to Switzerland and settled in Lausanne where he became a member of the Société des Peintres et Sculpteurs Suisses. Way continued to send paintings for exhibition at the Royal Canadian Academy and the Art Association of Montreal. In 1876 he showed six paintings in oil and watercolour in the Canadian section of the Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia and was awarded a silver medal.

In 1880 Way was elected an Academician of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) in Ottawa, and was considered a charter member of the newly formed Academy, although he was an honorary non-resident member. In 1884 he donated a watercolour to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts' collection of fine art that formed the beginning of the National Gallery of Canada's collection. Way continued to maintain his connections with Montreal and send paintings depicting European and British landscapes for exhibition with the Royal Canadian Academy and the Art Association of Montreal until a year before he died.

In 1898 Way was commissioned by the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) to paint a series of Canadian landscapes. He returned to Canada for about two years with his daughter Aimée, also an artist, and became a member of the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal. Way began his CPR commission on the Atlantic coast and travelled westward along the railway line to British Columbia. In 1899 he exhibited paintings of the Rocky Mountains with the RCA. His job finished, he returned to Lausanne, Switzerland where he died in 1919.

His work is in a number of public collections in Canada including the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, McCord Museum and elsewhere.