Artwork by Mary Evelyn Wrinch,  French Canadian Cottage

Mary E. Wrinch
French Canadian Cottage

oil on board
signed and dated 1926 lower right; signed “M.W. Reid” on the reverse
10 x 12 ins ( 25.4 x 30.5 cms )

Auction Estimate: $6,000.00$4,000.00 - $6,000.00

Price Realized $14,400.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Collection of the Artist
George Conn, 1965
Private Collection, Ontario
“Canadian Small Pictures”, CNE, Toronto, 1927, no. 402
“Home Truths”, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa; travelling to Mississauga Living Arts Centre; Rodman Hall, St. Catharines,
4 September 1997‒22 February 1998
Adjutor Rivard, “Chez Nous (Our Old Quebec Home)”, Toronto, 1914, page 19
Joan Murray, “Home Truths: A Celebration of Family Life by Canada’s Best-Loved Painters”, Toronto, 1997, plate 10, reproduced page 24
Mary Wrinch was an early modernist, who painted in the Ontario North prior to the advent of the Group of Seven. In her contribution to Canadian art, a group of powerful paintings, colour block prints and miniatures, Mary Wrinch was memorably matter-of-fact about her inspiration: people, the landscape and still life. She had a refreshingly unpretentious take on making art, with a nod to Post Impressionism and its preoccupation with pictorial structure, strong colour and bold handling.

Mary Wrinch`s “French Canadian Cottage”, painted on a trip to Quebec, centers on a characteristic French-Canadian cottage with a high-pitched roof, mullioned windows, and white-washed walls. Wrinch transformed it into her own subject using trees and flowers (among them in left of center are purple loosestrife) in the narrow yard. Orange flowers are reflected in the windows. The old-fashioned front door is open, so that the house seems to welcome the visitor. The ramshackle gate and fence in the foreground add to a sense of hominess. Wrinch liked the scene so much that she used it for her colour linocut, “Chez Nous” (1936, Museum London), adding to the print a man smoking a pipe and reading a newspaper stationed inside the doorway.

Wrinch liked a substantial surface effect, using thick impasto, and often featured repetitions of colour throughout the work, a reference doubtless to work she knew from studies of art abroad. Her interests in the distinction between landscape and architecture, are well served with “French Canadian Cottage”, which she painted as existing in a relatively confined area. The house in the painting has a welcoming aspect, perhaps drawing on a description by Adjutor Rivard who wrote in “Chez Nous” (1914), an important book of the period (published in translation in 1924 and illustrated with decorations by A.Y. Jackson), "Crossing the threshold you were instantly at home - "Friend, sit a while and rest!" (She titled the print she made of the painting “Chez Nous” as though to echo the title of the book.) In 1926, Ramsay Traquair published “The Cottages of Quebec” (McGill University), ably describing the French Canadian Cottage in text and pictures. The text was reprinted with additions from “Canadian Homes and Gardens” published in January 1926. The subject was a popular one at the time. The artist treasured “French Canadian Cottage” and kept it until shortly before her death. It passed to a private collection which cherished it in turn till today.

This work was saved by Wrinch and she valued it as the best of her work. It was purchased, along with another work by the artist, “Falling Leaves”, from dealer Gordon Conn (1888–1977). With painter Kenneth Forbes, Conn co-founded the Ontario Institute of Painters. He and his wife, Rheta, lived in Mary Wrinch`s house on the street bordering Wychwood Park, an artist’s colony first founded by painter Marmaduke Matthews in the 1870s. The address was 29 Alcina Avenue (built for her by architect Eden Smith and completed in 1910). Wrinch moved to “Upland Cottage” at 81 Wychwood Park when she married G.A. Reid (he completed it in 1906), but kept her former house on Alcina for many years.

We extend our thanks to Joan Murray, Canadian art historian, for contributing the preceding essay.
The Live Auction of An Important Private Collection of Canadian Art on December 1st, 2022 set an auction record for Mary Wrinch when “French Canadian Cottage” met with lively bidding to reach $14,400.

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Mary Evelyn Wrinch
(1878 - 1969) OSA, ARCA

A painter and printmaker, Mary Wrinch immigrated to Toronto from England in 1885. The artist made this city her home base, from which she ventured into the Ontario northland to paint, particularly around Lake Muskoka. Remarkably, Wrinch adapted her modernist style to this landscape years before the Group of Seven became famous for depicting the same region. Her art education began at the Central Ontario School of Art in Toronto (now OCAD), where Wrinch studied under Robert Holmes, Laura Muntz, and G. A. Reid (whom she later married, in 1922), graduating in 1893. She subsequently travelled to London, England, to further her training at the Grosvenor Life School under Walter Donne until 1899, and to study miniature painting under Alyn Williams. Her education continued at the Art Students' League in New York, where she also received private lessons in miniature painting from Alice Beckington. She was elected an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1918, and was also a member of the American Society of Miniature Painters (1902), the Ontario Society of Artists, the Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers, the Canadian Society of Graphic Art, the Women's Art Association of Canada, and the Canadian Handicrafts Guild. In addition to exhibiting with these associations, she participated in the Canadian Painting Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto (where her work was displayed alongside that of several members of the Group of Seven), the British Empire Exposition in Wembley, England (1924), and in a show at the Tate Gallery, London (1938), among many other exhibitions. She is represented in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the National Gallery of Canada.