Artwork by George Théodore Berthon,  Portrait of Children (Edith Grant & Sidonie Berthon)

George Berthon
Portrait of Children (Edith Grant & Sidonie Berthon)

oil on canvas, laid on canvas
22 x 18 ins ( 55.9 x 45.7 cms )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$10,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $15,600.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Private Collection
“Canadian Art: A Child’s World”, Annual Loan Exhibition, Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Montreal, 28 October-11 November 2017, no. 2
“Our Children: Reflections of Childhood in Historical Canadian Art,” Varley Art Gallery of Markham, 13 April-23 June 2019
Born in Vienna, Austria, Berthon was the son of Rene Theodore Berthon, an artist at the Court of Napoleon and student of the distinguished painter Jacques-Louis David. After showing early artistic talent, George Théodore Berthon studied in several capitals of Europe. He spent 14 years teaching Sir Robert Peel’s daughter before immigrating to Canada. George Théodore Berthon quickly established himself as one of the leading portraitists of Toronto’s gentry upon his arrival in the city in 1841. The artist’s neoclassical Victorian style changed over the years from vibrant colours and sharp outlines to a more subtle palette with a looser brushstroke. Berthon was known for portraying elegant and self-assured subjects. He exhibited with Paul Kane and Cornelius Kreighoff at the Toronto Society of Arts. The artist died the eldest member of the Ontario Society of Artists, but failed to qualify as a member of the Royal Canadian Academy until his death in 1892. While mainly a portrait painter, Berthon was also known to paint a number of landscapes. A large number of his works are held by Osgoode Hall and Trinity College, University of Toronto.

The label on the reverse of the picture identifies the young girl with blue bows as the daughter of the artist, Sidonie Berthon. The baby is identified as Edith Grant, who was the daughter and first child of Annie Radenhurst and Alexander Grant. Alexander Grant served as the Registrar of the Court of Appeals, which is a position that involves the settlement of orders, the assessment of bills of cost and the settlement of the contents of the various books filed with the Court of Appeal.

The painting is kept characteristically simple. The artist chooses to focus on the two figures while maintaining a dark background where some foliage is just visible. There is an absence of traditional props that the artist was known for employing such as elaborate drapery and chairs. The scene is closely cropped and Berthon punctuates the paired back palette with pops of blue and red. We see the artist’s mastery in the texture achieved in the fine lace and ribbons of the baby’s bonnet and the fine detailing of the childrens’ faces.

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George Théodore Berthon
(1806 - 1892)

Born in Vienna, Austria, his father was Rene Théodore Berthon, artist at the Court of Napoleon who studied under the noted master David. George Berthon showed an early ability for painting portraits and studied in several capitals in Europe. He spent 14 years in England and while there he taught the daughter of Sir Robert Peel. He came to Canada in 1841, opened a studio in Toronto and became ver successful as a portrait painter. He exhibited at the Toronto Society of Arts with Paul Kane, Cornelius Kreighoff, and J.G. Howard. A large number of his portraits may be seen at Osgoode Hall, Toronto; and some at Trinity College, University of Toronto. In 1876 on of his canvases as sent to Philadelphia by the Ontario Government and took the Continental Gold Medal. In 1880 he was nominated a member of the Royal Canadian Academy by failed to qualify for this honour until after his death. He also did many portraits which were copies. His portrait os Sir John Beverley Robinson is thought to be his masterpiece. At his death he was the oldest member of the Ontario Society of Artists. He died in Toronto and was buried there in St. Michael's Cemetery. One of the most important exhibitions of his work was held in 1934 at the Art Gallery of Toronto. He also painted a number of landscapes.

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