Artwork by Peleg Franklin Brownell,  Arranging Flowers

Peleg F. Brownell
Arranging Flowers

oil on canvas
signed lower left, dated 1902 lower right
15.25 x 13.25 ins ( 38.7 x 33.7 cms )

Auction Estimate: $10,000.00$8,000.00 - $10,000.00

Price Realized $13,200.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Kaspar Gallery, Toronto
Acquired by the present Private Collection, October 1985
“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. 41
“Home Truths”, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa; travelling to Mississauga Living Arts Centre; Rodman Hall, St. Catharines, 4 September 1997‒22 February 1998
“North By South: The Art of Peleg Franklin Brownell”, The Ottawa Art Gallery, 16 July‒13 September 1998
“Franklin Brownell Retrospective Exhibition”, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal, 29 September‒13 October, 2007
“Canadian Art: A Child’s World”, Annual Loan Exhibition, Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Montreal, 28 October‒11 November 2017, no. 7
“Our Children: Reflections of Childhood in Historical Canadian Art”, Varley Art Gallery, Markham, 13 April‒23 June 2019
Dennis Reid, “Collector’s Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Toronto, 1988, no. 41, reproduced page 48
Joan Murray, “Home Truths: A Celebration of Family Life by Canada’s Best‒Loved Painters”, Toronto, 1997, reproduced page 74 (plate 49)
Jim Burant and Robert Stacey, “North by South: The Art of Peleg Franklin Brownell (1857 – 1946)”, Ottawa, 1998, listed page 146
Franklin Brownell married Louise Nickerson on January 7th, 1889 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She was ten years younger than Brownell, and had, like Brownell, been born and raised there. Their only child, a daughter named Lois, was born in December 1889. Brownell and his family appear to have remained in New Bedford until after 1891, as the family was not included in the 1891 Canada census. By 1892, they had moved permanently to Ottawa. Throughout his career, Brownell demonstrated his love for his wife and daughter through a series of paintings of domestic scenes and portraits, many of which remained in the family’s hands until after the death of his daughter in 1984. The National Gallery of Canada owns several of these works, including “Lamplight” (1893), “An Interesting Story” (1905), and “A Little Puritan” (1909).

The art historian William Gerdts has noted that Brownell’s figural works echo those produced by Boston School artists Frank Benson and Edmund Tarbell both in subject matter and in terms of colour and brushwork. Brownell’s skill lies in making such compositions both artistically complex while remaining wholly matter‒of‒fact in capturing the spirit of everyday life. In this work, the two figures, although not identified as such, include his adored daughter Lois as the central figure of a scene of domestic calm and tranquility, while his wife looks on, book in hand, directing her eyes towards the unseen viewer. The painting itself is extremely complex in its structure, and includes a wealth of detail, from the lively patterns in the side table cloth, the carpeted floor, and the flowers in Lois’s lap and in the vase itself. As a painting, this work is a masterpiece in terms of both its subject matter and execution, including two of the major artistic classifications, acting as both a genre painting and a still life.

We extend our thanks to Jim Burant, art historian and curator, for contributing the preceding essay. He spent four decades with the art and photo holdings of Library and Archives Canada. He has organized or co‒organized many exhibitions and has written and lectured widely about aspects of Canada’s visual heritage, his most recent publication being about the History of Art in Ottawa, published by the Art Canada Institute. He was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for services to Canada in 2002, and is a member of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation.

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Peleg Franklin Brownell
(1857 - 1946) RCA, OSA

Peleg Franklin Brownell was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in July 1857, and studied at the Tufts School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, before going to Paris to study at the Academie Julian under Tony Robert-Fleury, Adolphe-William Bouguereau and Leon Bonnat. He remained in Paris until at least 1883, and then he returned to the United States, living first in New Bedford, and then in New York. He had met Canadian artist Willliam Brymner in Paris in 1881, before Brymner returned to Canada to become the principal of the Ottawa Art School. After both Brymner and his successor as the school’s principal, Charles Moss, moved elsewhere, Brownell was hired as the Ottawa Art School’s third principal in 1887, remaining in the position until the school’s closure in 1899. From 1900 until the school was revived in the early 1920s, he taught under the auspices of the Woman's Art Association of Ottawa. He finally retired from teaching in 1937, having taught many well-known and lesser well-known Canadian artists, including Frank Hennessey, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, and Henri Masson.

Once settled in Ottawa, Brownell rapidly established himself in Canadian art circles, becoming an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1895, and a full member in 1895. He was also a member of the Ontario Society of Arts from 1899 to 1907, when he left that organization to help found the rival Canadian Art Club. His early work included Lamplight, an 1892 domestic scene which was exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, which was purchased by the RCA and presented to the National Gallery of Canada. His RCA diploma work, The Photographer, became part of the National Gallery’s collection in 1896. Brownell, although known as a painter of Ottawa and its environs, also painted in the West Indies, the US, the lower St. Lawrence, and the Gaspé. Although well-known for his landscapes, he produced portraits, flower studies, marine and genre scenes in oil, watercolour and pastel. He exhibited widely, in the annual exhibitions of several art associations, including the RCA, OSA, and the Art Association of Montreal; at more than a dozen exhibitions held at James Wilson & Co. Art Gallery in Ottawa from 1900 onwards; and in such international exhibitions as the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, the 1900 Paris World's Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, St Louis, 1904, and the British Empire Exhibition held at Wembley, England, in 1924-25. His work is to be found in most major Canadian art galleries, as well as in many private collections.

Brownell remains an elusive figure, as there is little evidence available in the form of diaries and correspondence to enable an art historian to learn more about his outlook or artistic philosophy. William Brymner described him as “a nice sort of cove” in 1881, and his firm friendships with many artists, collectors, and connoisseurs, most notably Eric Brown, director of the National Gallery of Canada from 1910 to 1939, attest to a likeable and well-respected man. On his death in March 1946, he was described as “a shy, retiring man” who was “one of the soundest artists in Canada”.

We extend our thanks to Jim Burant, Canadian Art Academic, for contributing this biography.