Artwork by William Raphael,  Preparing for a Smoke

William Raphael
Preparing for a Smoke

oil on paper, mounted on board
signed and dated 1873 lower left
9.5 x 6.5 ins ( 24.1 x 16.5 cms )

Auction Estimate: $12,000.00$8,000.00 - $12,000.00

Price Realized $33,600.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Allan Gilmour, Ottawa, March 1880
Uno Langmann Antiques, Vancouver
Acquired by the present Private Collection, June 1983
“Seventh Annual Exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists,” Toronto, from 14 May 1879, no. 52 (Not For Sale)
“Canadian Academy of Arts First Annual Exhibition”, Ottawa, 8‒19 March 1880, no. 63 at $50
“Collector’s Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; travelling to Musée du Québec, Quebec City; Vancouver Art Gallery; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, 14 May 1988‒7 May 1989, no. 15
“Hommage à William Raphael (1833‒1914)”, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal, 7‒21 September 1996, no. 38
‘Ontario Society of Artists Seventh Annual Exhibition’, “The Globe”, Toronto, 20 May 1879, page 3
‘Canadian Art’, “Daily Free Press”, Ottawa, 8 March 1880 “Academy of Arts,” The Globe, Toronto, 9 March 1880
‘Academy of Arts’, “The Globe”, Toronto, 12 March 1880
‘Exhibition of Canadian Art’, “The Canadian Spectator”, III:18 (1 May 1880), page 210
‘A Gossip about the First Dominion Art Exhibition by an Unlearned Visitor’, “Rose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly and National Review”, IV (May 1880), page 552
J.G.A. Creighton, ‘French‒Canadian Life and Character’, in George Munro Grant, ed. , “Picturesque Canada: The Country as it Was and Is”, Toronto, circa 1882, drawing reproduced page 62
Sharon Rose Goelman, “William Raphael, R.C.A. (1833‒1914)” (M.A. thesis, Concordia University, 1978) pages 59, 128‒129, 176‒177, 350, no. 162 as “The Habitant” (1873)
Dennis Reid, “Collector’s Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Toronto, 1988, no. 15, pages 9, 12, reproduced page 25
William Raphael was born in Nakel, Prussia in 1833, the son of Orthodox Jewish parents. He studied at the Royal Academy of Art in Berlin and emigrated in 1857 to Montreal, where, like so many of his fellow Montreal artists, he began working for the noted photographer William Notman. A painter of portraits, still lifes, genre scenes and landscapes, he was a charter member of Montreal’s Society of Canadian Artists in 1868 and was elected a member of the Ontario Society of Artists in 1879. On that occasion he exhibited a painting titled “Preparing for a Smoke”, catalogued as “Not for Sale.”

An elderly habitant, sensitively depicted, wears a capot, toque, ceinture fléchée and hideskin moccasins, and prepares his clay pipe in a rustic interior. A brown glazed spittoon on the catalogne rug holds used embers. A flame glows in the wood stove behind which one glimpses the bonnet of the smoker’s wife. A kettle sits on the stove and a crucifix decorates what appears to be a small holy water container on the wall.

The subject is one to which Raphael returned in at least three other variant compositions (Sotheby’s, Toronto, 18 November 1986, lot 426, and 2 December 1998, lot 106, and one in a private collection), one dated as late as 1910. In each details were changed. None are identical save for the figure of the seated smoker, first conceived in a superb drawing dated 1872 that was engraved for publication in third serial installment of “Picturesque Canada”.

Raphael was nominated a charter member of the Canadian Academy of Arts by his peers and appointed by the governor-general, the Marquis of Lorne, husband of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise. Raphael showed four works in the first Academy exhibition in Ottawa in March 1880: the large “Indian Encampment at (sic) Lower St. Lawrence”, and a smaller landscape merely titled “Point au Pic, Murray Bay”, and two smaller works “L’Habitant and Preparing for a Smoke”. The writer in T”he Globe” (9 March 1880) found the nocturnal light effects in “Indian Encampment, Lower Saint Lawrence”, which Raphael donated to the National Gallery (acc. no. 59) as his diploma work, a condition of his acceptance of membership, “somewhat startling,” but two smaller works also attracted attention. “‘Preparing for a Smoke’ by Wm. Raphael, is a very spirited little picture, nearly or quite equal to ‘L’Habitant’, by the same artist, and purchased by His Excellency [the Marquis of Lorne].” Four days later the noted Ottawa collector Allan Gilmour purchased “Preparing for a Smoke”. In May, an “Unlearned Visitor” authored a late account of the Academy exhibition in “Rose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly and National Review”. “51 and 63 – Wm. Raphael – both studies of our French Canadian compatriots, and one of which is called ‘L’Habitant,’ are to our taste, by far the finest examples of figure studies proper in the collection. They are simply perfect in their way….”

The two landscapes, “Indian Encampment” and “Pointe au Pic”, went on to the Art Association of Montreal’s “Special Exhibition of the Works of Canadian Artists including Diploma Pictures, &c., from the Recent Exhibition of the Canadian Academy of Arts, Ottawa” in April 1880, where one writer regretted the absence of the two smaller pictures. “W. Raphael, C.A., in his ‘Moonlight’ is true to Nature, but we must confess we prefer those small pictures, representing interiors, with “habitants” smoking, &c., and it is a pity he is not represented by one here. The two exhibited in Ottawa were sold.”

William Scott had his business at 363 Notre Dame Street in Montreal from 1863 to 1867 so he was not an agent for the sale of this painting of 1873, but the manufacturer of the frame.

We extend our thanks to Charles Hill, Canadian art historian, for contributing the preceding essay.

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William Raphael
(1833 - 1914)

Born in Nakel, Prussia and educated at the Royal Academy of Art in Berlin, Willam Raphael brought with him a Germanic tradition of figure painting when he arrived in Montreal in 1857. In the 1860s he painted portraits, still lifes and city views that combine topography and genre, most notably in his famous painting of 1866 depicting people grouped behind Bonsecours Market (National Gallery of Canada, acc. no. 6673). He was undoubtedly attracted to the costumes and characteristics unique to Quebec, be it the garb of a habitant in a rustic interior (a theme he treated in several paintings) or women bringing their wares to market.