Artwork by George Agnew Reid,  Idling

George Reid

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1892 lower left; signed, titled and inscribed “Presented by the Artist to the Sherbrooke Art Gallery 1909” on the reverse
18 x 16 ins ( 45.7 x 40.6 cms )

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

Price Realized $108,000.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Sherbrooke Art Gallery, Montreal
David Mitchell Gallery, Toronto
Acquired by the present Private Collection, September 1969
“Paintings by Mr. & Mrs. G.A. Reid”, Messrs Oliver, Coate & Co., Toronto, 10‒14 December 1892, no. 2
“5th Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings & Sculpture”, Art Club of Philadelphia, 23 November‒3 December 1893, no. 177
“Works in Oil, Water‒Color and Black and White by the American Artists Robert V.V. Sewell, A. Brewster Sewell, Elihu Vedder, N.A., W. Hamilton Gibson, and Herbert A. Olivier [and] George Agnew Reid, R.C.A.”, Toronto, Canada, American Art Galleries, New York, December 1894, no. 159
“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. 34
“Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver Art Gallery; travelling to Glenbow Museum, Calgary; Art Gallery of Hamilton, 29 October 2015‒25 September 2016
“Our Children: Reflections of Childhood in Historical Canadian Art”, Varley Art Gallery, Markham, 13 April‒23 June 2019
Muriel Miller‒Miner, “G.A. Reid Canadian Artist”, Toronto, 1946, page 184, listed page 202
Dennis Reid, “Collector’s Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Toronto, 1988, no. 34, page 12, reproduced page 43
Dennis Reid, ‘Impressionism in Canada’, in “World Impressionism: The International Movement, 1860‒1920”, Norma Broude, ed., New York, 1990, listed and reproduced page 110‒111
Christine Boyanoski, ‘Figures in the Landscape en plein air’, in Ian Thom, et al., “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver/London, 2015, pages 61‒62 and 202, reproduced page 70
A.K. Prakash, “Impressionism in Canada: A Journey of Rediscovery”, Stuttgart, 2015, page 658, reproduced page 234

The academic realism of George Reid’s work of the 1880s and 1890s, imbibed from his teachers Robert Harris and Thomas Eakins, was modified by his first two trips in France. The impressionists had held the last of their eight exhibitions two years before he and his wife, Mary Hiester, arrived in Paris for a fifteen‒month stay in 1888‒89. By that time even the “juste milieu” artists that Reid emulated were incorporating impressionist elements into their canvases. As well, on that trip Reid viewed Puvis de Chavannes’s recent murals in Amiens and Paris, admiring their non‒perspectival space and simplification of detail: two traits that made him receptive to parallel qualities in impressionist art. In 1896 the Reids returned to Paris, partly, he recalled, to learn more about Impressionism. Reid stated four decades later that “When Impressionism came I experimented with it, and found it both, as to vision and technique, worthy of respect.”

“Idling”‒created midway between the 1888‒89 and 1896 trips‒is Reid’s most accomplished foray into that style. Unlike the understated illumination in his contemporaneous studio paintings, the sunlight here pervades and unifies the entire setting, suggesting the scene may have been painted outdoors: a hallmark of impressionist technique. Christine Boyanoski proposes that it may have been produced at Onteora, the artists’ colony near Tannersville, New York, where the Reids spent almost every summer from 1891 until the First World War. The warm colours, blurred outlines and details, and broken brushwork are further indications of Impressionism’s influence. Reid later noted, however, that that approach had been for him “only a phase”, and in any case there was little support for it in Toronto prior to the First World War. “Idling” is thus almost unique in Reid’s oeuvre. Nonetheless, its freshness and spontaneity, and the casual charm of its subject underpinned by a subtly sophisticated composition, conjoined his much‒admired skills as a figure painter with his growing interest in landscape.

We extend our thanks to Brian Foss, Carleton University Professor of Art & Architectural History, and co‒curator of “1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group” for his assistance in researching this artwork and for contributing the preceding essay.

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George Agnew Reid
(1860 - 1947) OCA, PRCA