Artwork by Henry Sandham,  Low Tide, Murray Bay

Henry Sandham
Low Tide, Murray Bay

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1884 lower right; inscribed “Murray Bay / Hy Sa… / Low Tide” on a label on the stretcher on the reverse
20 x 34 ins ( 50.8 x 86.4 cms )

Auction Estimate: $75,000.00$60,000.00 - $75,000.00

Price Realized $192,000.00
Sale date: June 8th 2023

Hollis-Taggart Galleries, New York
Pierce Galleries, Boston, 2007
A.K. Prakash & Associates, Inc., Toronto, 2007
Acquired by the present Private Collection, 2009
“Fifth Annual Exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts”, Art Association of Montreal, 15 April‒4 May 1884, no. 10 as “Low Tide” at $150
“Twelfth Annual Exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists”, Society’s Galleries, Toronto, from 17 May 1884, no. 31 as “Low Tide” at $150 “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver Art Gallery, travelling to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary; Art Gallery of Hamilton, 30 October 2015‒25 September 2016
“Our Children: Reflections of Childhood in Historical Canadian Art’, Varley Art Gallery, Markham, Ontario, 13 April‒23 June 2019
George W. Beers, ‘Canadian Sports’, “Scribner’s Monthly”, vol. XIV, (August 1877), pages 506-527, illustrated by Sandham
‘The Canadian Art Association’, “The Witness” (Montreal) 11 April 1880
George M. Grant, ‘The Dominion of Canada’, “Scribner’s Monthly”, vol. XX (May-August 1880) pages 80‒95, 241‒256, 433‒449, 553‒568, illustrated by Sandham
‘Ontario Society of Artists’, “The Globe” (Toronto), 20 May 1884, page 2
Annie Fréchette, ‘Summer Resorts on the Saint Lawrence’, “Harpers New Monthly Magazine”, 69:410 (July 1884), pages 197-209, illustrated by Sandham
Dennis Reid, “‘Our Own Country Canada’: being an account of the national aspirations of the principal landscape artists in Montreal and Toronto 1860-1890”, Ottawa, 1979, pages 92-94, 112-117, 185-189, 352-360
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, 2015, pages 61, 203, reproduced pages 64-65
François Tremblay, David Mendel, Judy Bross, “Charlevoix, une tradition d’acceuil”, Québec, 2018, reproduced page 20
A native of Montreal, Henry Sandham first exhibited at the Art Association of Montreal in 1865, the year he married Agnes Fraser, sister of the artist John A. Fraser. He was employed by the photographer William Notman from 1864, becoming a partner in Sandham & Notman from 1877 to 1882. That same year, 1877, he was commissioned to prepare illustrations on Canadian subjects for the American periodical Scribner’s Monthly, for which he would also illustrate four Canadian articles by George Munro Grant in 1880. While active as a photographer and illustrator, Sandham also exhibited with Montreal’s Society of Canadian Artists from 1868, with the Ontario Society of Artists from 1874, and was appointed a charter member of the Canadian Academy of Arts in 1880. At the first annual meeting of the Academy on 6 March 1880 he submitted a diploma painting, “Beacon Light, St. John Harbour”, as required by all academicians, to be deposited in a still to be realized National Gallery. On 11 April it was announced that he was moving to Boston.

Sandham continued to be a prolific illustrator of articles of both Canadian and American subjects and in July 1884 his illustrations for the article “Summer Resorts on the Saint Lawrence” by the Ottawa writer Annie Fréchette were published in “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine”. Approaching Murray Bay by steamer, “[f]ive hours after leaving Quebec, symptoms of an important landing begin to be visible amongst the majority of Canadians on board .... The tourist ... moves his chair to the land side of the deck, and calmly takes in the grandeur of the hills which rise almost sheer from the water at the wharf of Murray Bay,” wrote Fréchette. “Struck by the simplicity of the accommodation at Murray Bay, she continued: “There are no costly toilets displayed. The dressing is simple, and entirely appropriate to the place and its requirements, which are rather those of the country town grown into popular favour, and crowded with ‘summer boarders,’ ... Murray Bay impresses one as being managed on strictly economical principles. Prices are kept down by its habitual visitors, as neither French nor English Canadians are, as a rule, given to lavish expenditure... So strongly is the spirit of conservatism intrenched here that the same families come year after year from Quebec, Montreal, and even Toronto, to occupy the same rooms or cottages. ...There are always a few Americans to be found summering here, generally of a class seeking rest and quiet rather than gayety. They certainly do not come for the bathing, as the mere mention of it sets them shivering. Even amongst the Canadians, who can stand such cold baths, I found that bathing was the exception rather than the rule.... The children get over the difficulty of coldness by one of the happy expedients of quick-witted childhood. They appropriate the deep hollows in the great rocks along the beach, which the ebbing tide has left brimful of water, tempered to a pleasant warmth by the sun. In these natural bath-tubs they splash and frolic about to their hearts’ content. They patter over the rocks in their bare feet, dripping garments and high-peaked straw hats, rosy and happy, and are delightfully quaint little pictures.”

This romantic account of summering at Murray Bay (La Malbaie) could well describe this painting by Henry Sandham, undoubtedly conceived during the summer of 1883 when he visited to prepare illustrations for Fréchette’s article. A mother and grandmother
sit knitting and crocheting on a rock, while the children’s nurse appreciates the moment of reprieve and admires the distant hills.

Three young girls play in the sand by the shores of the Malbaie River. It is a bucolic image enlivened by the brilliant colouring as noted by the writer in Toronto’s Globe when it was exhibited with the Ontario Society of Artists in May 1884. “‘Low Tide’ by Mr. Sandham is a very quiet subject, treated with all that delicacy of feeling and happy effects in atmosphere for which the artist is noted. The colouring is enlivened by the bright wraps cleverly associated with the figures in the foreground. Altogether the picture is a singularly pleasing one.”

We extend our thanks to Charles Hill, Canadian art historian, former Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada and author of “The Group of Seven‒Art for a Nation”, for his assistance in researching this artwork and for contributing the preceding essay.

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Henry Sandham
(1842 - 1910) OSA, RCA, SCA

Born in Montreal, Sandham began his career as a painter and illustrator while working as a photographic retoucher with noted composite photographer William Norman in his studio. Branching out into his own practice, Sandham won the silver medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1878 for his composite photograph of the Montreal Snow Shoe Club (1877). He began working on assignment for “The Century Magazine” and “Scribner’s Monthly” magazine creating illustrations for the publications, including an illustration for George Grant’s “The Dominion of Canada” article for “Scribner’s Monthly” (1880). He was a founding member of the Society of Canadian Artists and in 1880 became a charter member of the Royal Canadian Academy. Travelling to France, Boston, and England, spending significant time in Boston where he was the vice president of the Boston Arts Club, Sandham passed away in 1910 in London, UK.