Artwork by Edwin Headley Holgate,  Totem Poles, No. 1 (1926)

Edwin H. Holgate
Totem Poles, No. 1 (1926)

colour wood engraving
signed and inscribed “No. 27” in the lower margin; titled on a label on the reverse
4.5 x 4.5 ins ( 11.4 x 11.4 cms ) ( image size )

Auction Estimate: $9,000.00$7,000.00 - $9,000.00

Price Realized $10,200.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

William Garrison Whitford
By descent to the present Private Collection, Montana
Rosalind Pepall & Brian Foss, “Edwin Holgate”, Montreal, 2005, page 70, similar work reproduced page 57
During the summer of 1926, Edwin Holgate visited the Skeena River in B.C. with Marius Barbeau and A.Y. Jackson, creating a series of works from “Totem Poles, No. 1” to “Totem Poles, No. 5”.

As Rosemarie Tovell notes: "Created soon after his return in 1926, the three-colour wood engraving “Totem Poles, No. 1” captures the setting of the Gitxsan and Tsimishian villages along the Skeena: the ramshackle dwellings and lone villager are offset by the impressive totem poles and looming mountains". What makes these works so compelling, as Tovell continues, is that they are "celebrations of the richness of their culture and its art."

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Edwin Headley Holgate
(1892 - 1977) Group of Seven, RCA

Edwin Holgate was born in Allandale, Ontario. Holgate began his art education at the Art Association of Montreal studying under William Brymner who was also A.Y. Jackson's teacher. In 1912 he went to Paris where he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière under Claudio Castelucho and later under Lucien Simon and René Ménard. He was in Russia at the outbreak of the First World War. He returned to Canada where he enlisted and served with the 5th Canadian Division Artillery in France (1916-19). He married Mary Frances Rittenhouse in 1920 and returned to Paris where he continued his studies. There he attended the Colarossi under Adolph Milman, a Russian refugee.

He returned with his wife to Canada in 1922 and opened a studio. He taught wood engraving at the Ecole des Beaux Arts for six years. In Montreal he enjoyed the friendship of A.Y. Jackson, Clarence Gagnon, Mabel May, Lilas Newton, Randolph Hewton, and many of the younger artists who became known as the Beaver Hall Hill Group. Holgate was a good skier and he would take trips to various parts of Quebec to sketch during the winters, sometimes at Baie St. Paul where A.Y. Jackson, Clarence Gagnon, Mabel May and others would congregate.

In 1926 he accompanied A.Y. Jackson and Marius Barbeau to the Skeena River area in British Columbia. Barbeau had been investigating the condition of the Indian totem poles, many of which were restored by the C.N.R. engineer Mr. T.B. Campbell. Holgate and Jackson made a number of sketches of the poles and the Indian villages in the area. From his sketches, Holgate made several large canvases. One is in the collection of the National Gallery and entitled is “Totem Poles, Gitsegiuklas”.

Holgate became the eighth member of the Group of Seven in 1931 and remained a member of the Group until it disbanded in 1933. From it arose the Canadian Group of Painters of which he was a founding member. Paul Duval noted that Holgate and Varley were the only members of the Group who drew and painted nudes. Holgate was well known also for his portraits and did many striking character studies of inhabitants of Canadian bush country. The Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada have his nude studies in their collections.

During the Second World War, Holgate served overseas as an official Canadian war artist with the R.C.A.F. and painted mainly portraits of flying officers. Holgate’s wood-engravings are exceptionally well done and interesting. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy (A.R.C.A. 1934 - R.C.A. 1935). His work has been exhibited in many group shows over the years. He is represented in many collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the McMichael Collection.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979