Artwork by John Wentworth Russell,  Café, Berneval

John W. Russell
Café, Berneval

oil on board
signed and inscribed “Berneval” lower right
12 x 16 ins ( 30.5 x 40.6 cms )

Auction Estimate: $3,500.00$2,500.00 - $3,500.00

Price Realized $19,200.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Anna Russell, Toronto
Acquired by the present Private Collection, after 1983

“Newton MacTavish Papers”, Toronto Reference Library
Newton MacTavish, ‘Mr. Russell’s Art’, “Paintings by Mr. John Russell at the Galleries of Louis Ralston”, 548 Fifth Avenue, New York, March 1911
Newton MacTavish, ‘The Art of John Russell’, “Canadian Magazine”, XXXVI:6 (36:6), pages 557‒565
Newton MacTavish, ‘A Day in the Luxembourg’, “The Canadian Magazine”, XL:2 (40:2), pages 121‒127
John Russell, the son of a noted Hamilton alienist, studied at the Art Students’ League in New York from 1898 to 1901, and worked there as an illustrator until he moved to Paris about 1905. Unlike most Canadians he didn’t go to Paris to study but to paint. He had considerable success as a portrait painter and exhibited portraits of the architect John Lyle (1905) and artists Archibald Browne and Curtis Williamson in 1909 (both National Gallery of Canada). From the 1909 exhibition of the Canadian Art Club the National Gallery purchased his large canvas, “Mme. De B and Son”.

The Toronto editor and art writer Newton MacTavish met John Russell in Toronto in 1910 and visited him in Paris later that year. From Paris Russell wrote to MacTavish in London en route on 18 July, “I have an invitation from a painter friend to join him at a place called Berneval Plage, quite near Dieppe. This is on the London route, so I may leave tomorrow night. Should you be coming to Paris you could come by Dieppe … I could join you and come up to Paris with you.” In a laudatory article MacTavish published the following April, he wrote: “When I found him at Paris, he had just come from a trip out to Dieppe, whither he had gone to paint the sea, the shore, and the accessory figures of bathers and sand-walkers.” It was on this occasion that Russell painted this delightful study of two women in an out door café at the popular resort of Berneval. Painted in a restrained palette of greys, blues and whites, with pink blossoms on the tree, most notable is the rapidity of the artist’s brushstroke, a characteristic of Russell’s sketches painted in the Luxembourg Gardens as well. “Mr. Russell is anything but a sluggard, and he works with a dexterity that is seldom acquired even by much older painters,” wrote MacTavish. “His rapidity is due in part at least to the fact that he has mastered his subject before he begins to paint, and he seems to know what every stroke will produce. … While his strokes are full of certainty and force, carrying paint without the least timidity, there is withal much refinement in texture and tone…. Mr. Russell’s art pulsates with colour and movement; the sketches made in the Luxembourg Gardens, at Paris, and along the coast of Normandy, possess the freshness and freedom of the latest impressionism with the added definition of fine and satisfactory draughtsmanship.”

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

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John Wentworth Russell
(1879 - 1959)