Artwork by David Brown Milne,  Under the Porch

David Milne
Under the Porch

oil on canvas
signed and dated “Sept 13, 1927” upper right; titled and dated “Sept. 13, 1927” on the reverse; Milne catalogue raisonné no. 207.98
12 x 16.25 ins ( 30.5 x 41.3 cms ) ( support )

Auction Estimate: $80,000.00$60,000.00 - $80,000.00

Price Realized $60,000.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Masters Gallery, Calgary
Private Collection
David P. Silcox, “Painting Place: The Life and Work of David B. Milne”, Toronto, 1996, pages 184, 191
David Milne Jr. And David P. Silcox, “David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume 1: 1929-1953”, Toronto, 1998, listed and reproduced page 437, no. 207.98
From 1924-1929, David Milne and his wife Patsy lived in upper New York State. The Milnes divided their time between Lake Placid in the winters and Big Moose Lake in the summers, where Milne built a house and the couple ran a teahouse. Absorbing much of Milne’s time and energy, the venture ended up providing them with only marginal financial reward. Milne was relatively isolated from the broader art community, and even refrained from applying to annual exhibitions. Though his artistic output dropped significantly, the quality of his paintings remained wholly uncompromised.

“Under the Porch” was painted from the verandah of the staff house at the Glenmore Hotel, and the sheltered spot provided the vantage point for two other surviving oils. This work counts as one of fewer than a dozen oil paintings executed by the artist at Big Moose Lake in 1927. During this period, Milne often worked with a strictly limited palette of gray or black, punctuated with concentrated “dazzle spots” of colour. Writer David Silcox noted that these paintings “..all extend the use of Milne’s value system, particularly the use of mid-value (gray) or the light values (white or near-white), far beyond anything that he had done before; and they contain the least amount of colour–other than white, gray and black–of any of Milne’s paintings thus far. If the colours in each painting were gathered into a solid area, barely a hundredth part of the surface would be covered. Yet miraculously, these paintings seem immensely colourful. Colour is used as a catalyst, animating areas much larger than the space over which it is spread”.

With “Under the Porch”, Milne describes form with the use of line rather than modelling, relying on outline and value changes to create pictorial space. His sense of composition is masterful, with the painting boldly divided by the solid black post and beam of the porch. Despite the heavy darks dominating the right, the picture is expertly visually balanced. Milne’s radical reduction of form and highly selective use of colour formed part of a considered, deliberate artistic strategy. David Silcox observed, “The simplification of a visual idea, so that it read more quickly, and thus had more immediate impact, was a constant aim when Milne altered his paintings. By pruning down and concentrating on the essential characteristics of a painting, Milne was able to give it greater legibility–and power”.

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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.