Lot #108

Adrien Hébert
The Eaton’s Window, Montreal (1937)

oil on canvas
signed lower right
32 x 48.25 ins ( 81.3 x 122.6 cms )

Auction Estimate: $90,000.00$70,000.00 - $90,000.00

Price Realized $408,000.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Provenance:
Galerie Bernard Desroches, Montreal
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal
Private Collection
Exhibited:
“Fifty‒Fourth Spring Exhibition”, Art Association of Montreal, 18 March‒11 April 1937, no. 139
“Adrien Hébert, Thirty Years of His Art, 1923‒1953”, National Gallery of Canada; travelling to Sir George Williams University, Montreal; Art Gallery of Hamilton; Centennial Art Gallery, Halifax; Winnipeg Art Gallery; Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 20 August 1971‒31 May 1972
“Chez Arthur et Caillou la pierre”, a presentation of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Terre des Hommes, Montreal, 1974
“Montréal vue par le peintre Adrien Hébert”, Place des Arts, Expositions Flammarion, Montreal, 24 January‒4 March 1979
“Hommage à Adrien Hébert”, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal, 10‒22 September, 1984, no. 4
“Mode et apparence dans l’art québécois, 1880‒1945”, Musée national des beaux‒arts du Québec, Quebec, 9 February‒6 May 2012, no. 95
“Art canadien: L’enfant et son univers|Canadian Art: A Child’s World”, Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Montreal, 28 October‒11 November 2017, no. 13
“Our Children: Reflections of Childhood in Historical Canadian Art”, Varley Art Gallery of Markham, 13 April‒23 June 2019
Literature:
“Catalogue of the Fifty‒Fourth Spring Exhibition”, Art Association of Montreal, 18 March‒11 April 1937, page 31, no. 139
Reynald, ‘Le 54e Salon du printemps’, “La Presse” (Montreal), 20 March 1937, page 49
Anon., ‘D’Halifax à Victoria: l’œuvre d’Adrien Hébert’, “Le Droit”, Ottawa, 18 August 1971, page 26
Anon., “Globe and Mail”, Toronto, 23 December 1971
Lise Boyer, ‘Montréal vue par le peintre Adrien Hébert (...)’, “Les heures de la place”, Montreal, 24 January 1979 (Typed press release)
Virginia Nixon, ‘New look at man, his era in Hébert retrospective’, “The Gazette”, Montreal, 13 November 1971, page 51
Jean‒René Ostiguy, “Adrien Hébert, Thirty Years of His Art, 1923‒1953”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1971, no. 24, page 29, reproduced page 52
Jean René Ostiguy, “Adrien Hébert. Premier interprète de la modernité québécoise”, Saint‒Laurent, 1986, no. 50, page 130, reproduced page 103
Esther Trépanier, “La ville comme lieu de la modernité: sa représentation dans la peinture québécoise, de 1919 à 1939” (M.A. thesis, Université du Québec, April 1983), page 269, figure 79
Pierre L’Allier, “Adrien Hébert”, Musée du Québec, Quebec, 1993, reproduced pages 161‒162
Esther Trépanier, “Peinture et modernité au Québec, 1919‒1939”, Quebec, 1998, page 161
Esther Trépanier and Véronique Borboën, “Mode et apparence dans l’art québécois, 1880‒1995”, Quebec, 2012, page 191, reproduced page 103
Adrien Hébert was born into a family of artists. His father, Louis‒Philippe Hébert (1850‒1917), and his brother, Henri Hébert (1884‒1950), were brilliant sculptors. Adrien was a painter. He received a solid academic training in Montreal and Paris. A man of his own era, he took sides against traditional regionalism in art by participating in the publication of the first modern art magazine in Quebec, “Le Nigog” (1918), which defended an expression of the realities of contemporary and urban life in the 20th century. Thus, Adrien Hébert shares a North American vision of painting, inspired by the development of Montreal and its port, contributing to the industrialization, mass consumption and circulation of goods that kept progressing in the city since the end of the 19th century. His works were regularly presented at the Spring Salon of the Art Association of Montreal, where they won the Jessie Dow Prize twice. Adrien Hébert was named an associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1932 and elected an academician in 1941. He painted “The Eaton’s Window” in 1937, the same year he was elected vice‒president of the Arts Club of Montreal.

This “first interpreter of Quebec modernity,” as the art historian and curator Jean‒René Ostiguy referred to him, took part in the 54th Spring Salon of the Art Association of Montreal in 1937. The critic Reynald of the daily “La Presse” considered his two offerings “really remarkable.” The subject of Hébert’s canvases is the Christmas windows of the Morgan's (circa 1936‒1937 coll. Hudson’s Bay Company, Toronto) and Eaton’s department stores in Montreal. The critic writes enthusiastically that “both descriptions are full to the
brim with teeming life, understood in the city dweller way.” This is how Reynald qualifies the subject that Adrien Hébert draws from the festivities of the end‒of‒year celebrations in Montreal. The city center’s attractive and illuminated shop windows arouse the keen interest of passers‒by, both young and old. This new subject breaks with the traditional images of midnight mass or canayenne vigils sought after by regionalist painters and illustrators. Of the two works submitted by Adrien Hébert, the critic considered “The Eaton’s Window” the bolder one. He praised its composition, balance and the firm orchestration of colouring and values. More importantly, he emphasized the boldness of the point of view adopted by the artist, who had positioned himself “behind the window to watch the crowd and the bustle of the street through the toys and the glass.”

Indeed, “The Eaton’s Window” is a technical feat. The work presents eighteen passers‒by, including the admirers of the window, a horse‒ drawn cart, a car, a streetcar and, on the other side, a building with a restaurant on the ground floor. In addition, the many toys and colourful characters in the interior scene amaze the children, bundled up in their warm clothes with their noses glued to the glass. An elegant suspended garland and an illuminated fir tree also occupy this space that the painter has articulated in compressed horizontal planes, similar to the density of urban space in big modern cities.

Featured in major retrospectives dedicated to Adrien Hébert, “The Eaton’s Window” is one of the most eloquent tributes to Québécois and Canadian modernity.

We extend our thanks to Dr. Michèle Grandbois, Canadian art historian, for her assistance in researching this artwork and for contributing the preceding essay.


Adrien Hébert vient d’une famille d’artistes. Son père Louis-Philippe Hébert (1850-1917) et son frère Henri Hébert (1884-1950) sont de brillants sculpteurs, Adrien est peintre. Il acquiert une solide formation académique à Montréal et à Paris. Homme de son temps, il prend parti contre le régionalisme traditionnel en art en participant à la publication de la première revue d’art moderne québécoise, “Le Nigog” (1918), qui défend une expression des réalités de la vie contemporaine et urbaine du XXe siècle. Ainsi, Adrien Hébert partage une vision nord-américaine de la peinture, inspirée par le développement de Montréal et de son port, partie prenante du grand mouvement d’industrialisation, de consommation de masse et de circulation des marchandises qui ne cesse de progresser dans la cité depuis la fin du XIXe siècle. Ses œuvres sont régulièrement présentées au Salon du printemps de l’Art Association of Montreal où elles obtiennent le prix Jessie Dow à deux reprises. Adrien Hébert est reçu membre-associé de la Royal Canadian Academy of Arts en 1932 et élu académicien en 1941. Il peint “The Eaton’s Window” en 1937, année où il est nommé vice-président du Arts Club of Montreal.

Ce « premier interprète de la modernité québécoise », comme l’a surnommé l’historien de l’art et conservateur Jean-René Ostiguy, participe, en 1937, au 54e Salon du printemps de la Art Association of Montreal. Le critique Reynald du quotidien La Presse juge ses deux envois « vraiment remarquables ». Les toiles de Hébert ont comme sujet les vitrines de Noël des grands magasins Morgan (v. 1936-1937 coll. Hudson’s Bay Company, Toronto) et Eaton à Montréal. Enthousiaste, le critique écrit que « les deux descriptions sont pleines jusqu’au bord de vie grouillante, comprise à la manière citadine. » C’est ainsi que Reynald qualifie le sujet qu’Adrien Hébert puise dans les réjouissances des fêtes de fin d’année à Montréal. Les attrayantes vitrines illuminées du centre-ville attisent la convoitise des passants, des plus jeunes aux plus âgés. Ce nouveau sujet rompt avec les images traditionnelles de messe de minuit ou de veillées canayennes tant recherchées par les peintres et les illustrateurs régionalistes. Des deux œuvres soumises par Adrien Hébert, le critique considère “The Eaton’s Window” la plus audacieuse. Il louange sa composition, son équilibre et la ferme orchestration du coloris et des valeurs. Plus important, il souligne la hardiesse du point de vue adopté par l’artiste qui s’était situé « à l’arrière de la vitrine pour regarder la foule et l’animation de la rue à travers les jouets et la vitre. »

En effet, “The Eaton’s Window” relève de la prouesse technique. L’œuvre réunit dix-huit passants incluant les admirateurs de la vitrine, une charrette tirée par un cheval, une automobile, un tramway dans la rue et, de l’autre côté, un édifice avec restaurant au rez-de-chaussée, sans compter la quantité de jouets et de personnages colorés sur la scène intérieure qui émerveillent les enfants, emmitouflés dans leurs vêtements chauds, le nez collé sur la vitre. Une élégante guirlande suspendue et un sapin illuminé prennent place dans cet espace que le peintre a articulé en plans horizontaux compressés, similaire à la densité de l’espace urbain dans les grandes villes modernes.

Présent dans les grandes rétrospectives consacrées à Adrien Hébert, “The Eaton’s Window” compte parmi les témoignages les plus éloquents de la modernité québécoise et canadienne.

Nous désirons remercier l’historienne d’art canadien Dr Michèle Grandbois pour son aide dans la recherche de cette œuvre et sa contribution à l’essai précédent.



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Adrien Hébert
(1890 - 1967) RCA

Born in Paris, France, the son of noted sculptor, Louis Philippe Hébert, he attended primary school in France while his father, a Canadian, was busy working on the bronze castings of his historical monuments. Adrien’s parents travelled between France and Montreal a number of times. In 1904 he was enrolled in the Monument National where he studied art under Joseph St. Charles, Edmond Dyonnet, Joseph Franchère, and Jobson Paradis. In 1907 he continued studies under William Brymner at the Art Association of Montreal where he remained until 1911. But he was still not certain that he wanted to be a painter.

At the age of 22 he accompanied his father to Paris where his father enrolled him in classes at the studio of Fernand Cormon, noted painter of historical and archeological subjects. His father hoped that in this noted painter’s studio his son would take a more serious approach to paintings as a career. But Adrien was not easily converted from his own inclinations and would spend his time along the Seine River observing the ships and general traffic often as a truant from Cormon’s classes.

Finally he discovered the works of Monet and Sisley and other Impressionists and painting took on a new meaning for him. He began to work in earnest and made visits to museums at Luxembourg and the Louvre in Paris (although he didn’t abandon his interest in ships, boats, locomotives, and the busy city streets).

He returned to Montreal in 1914 and was appointed by the Montreal Academic Commissions teacher of drawing in which capacity he served for 35 years. In 1924 he began to turn his attentions to the Port of Montreal although he made a trip to France the same year. He returned to France on several occasions but he finally made very firm ties in Montreal where he moved into a new workshop on Labelle Street. In 1930 he exhibited his work in Paris when ‘Le Journal Paris’ noted, “this realism possesses a poetry of its own and gives him soft tones in the sky and water. The pictures of Adrien Hébert are constructed and composed with real art.”

In 1932 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy. In 1936 an exhibition of 32 of his canvases was held at the Watson Art Galleries (later Dominion Galleries) and praised in ‘The Gazette’ and ‘La Presse’. It was in 1938 that Hébert was in an automobile-tram collision and almost lost the sight of his eye but under the skilfull care of his doctors his sight was not impaired. Hébert was elected full member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1941. During WWII he painted the huge locomotives undergoing repair at the C.P.R. Angus Shops. Hébert and R. W. Pilot exhibited their work jointly at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1949 where the exhibition were well-received.

In 1956 his paintings were exhibited at the Hélène-de-Champlain Restaurant under the sponsorship of the City of Montreal. The exhibition included paintings he had done between 1926 and 1956 and was, in a way, a tribute by the city to one who had devoted most of his life in revealing its beauty to the world. Dorothy Pfeiffer, on the occasion of his solo show at the Arts Club of Montreal in 1963 wrote that “…Adrien Hébert’s paintings appear to combine a certain Impressionist flavour wedded to a forthright Canadian approach to actuality. He appears as an especially gifted exponent of space and light. His varied canvases also bear witness to intense interest in the busy city life around him.”

Hébert died in 1967. He was a member of the Arts Club of Montreal for more than forty years. His work is included in the National Gallery of Canada, Le Hâvre Museum, France, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and others.

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