Artwork by Albert Henry Robinson,  Les Éboulements en haut, circa 1928

A.H. Robinson
Les Éboulements en haut, circa 1928

oil on panel
titled to a gallery label and inscribed “Baie St. Paul” on the reverse
11.25 x 13 ins ( 28.6 x 33 cms )

Auction Estimate: $60,000.00$40,000.00 - $60,000.00

Price Realized $90,000.00
Sale date: June 8th 2023

The Artist
Roseanne Gasse Mayer
By descent to family of Roseanne Gasse Mayer
Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal
Acquired by the present Private Collection, November 1992
“Hommage à Albert H. Robinson”, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal, September 1994, no.3 as “Baie St-Paul”, “circa” 1928
A.Y. Jackson to Clarence Gagnon, 20 March 1927
“Arthur Lismer”, Canadian Picture Study, Art Gallery of Toronto, 1940
“The Collection of Mitzi and Mel Dobrin”, Alan Kinkhoff Gallery, Toronto, 2020
The subject of this sketch is identified by a penciled note on the verso, written in an unidentified hand, as Baie-Saint-Paul. However, it can be confirmed as a view of Les Éboulements en haut, thanks to the prominent spire of the Église de l’Assomption de la Sainte Vièrge. The sketch postdates a 1921 trip Albert Robinson made with A.Y. Jackson to Cacouna, on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River: the first of what became Robinson’s yearly late winter/early spring sketching expeditions along the Saint Lawrence below Quebec City. But despite his initial 1921 foray along the south shore, Robinson’s preference was for the north shore where, throughout the 1920s and into the early 1930s, his annual trips in Beaupré and Charlevoix counties included visits to Saint-Tite-des-Caps, Baie-Saint-Paul, Les Éboulements, Murray Bay (now La Malbaie), Saint-Fidèle and Saint-Siméon.

Robinson’s precise movements on these trips are often uncertain. He can be securely placed in Les Éboulements only in 1926 (”Falling Snow, Les Éboulements”, Art Gallery of Hamilton), and 1929 (when Jackson documented the two of them working there). But Les Éboulements en haut might have been painted at another time during the 1920s, as Robinson is known to have been in nearby locales such as La Malbaie and, most often, Baie-Saint-Paul: towns that were just 30 and 17 km, respectively, from Les Éboulements. It may, for example, have been made the same year that Jackson painted his oil sketch titled “Winter Scene, Les Éboulements” (formerly in the Mitzi and Mel Dobrin collection), as the two sketches are painted from a similar vantage point and with the church steeple positioned slightly left of centre. There are significant differences between the sketches, although these are not sufficient to obviate the possibility that they were painted at the same time‒and, indeed, the verso label indicates that Robinson at one point owned the Jackson. Robinson treats the buildings more individualistically, whereas Jackson abstracts them to emphasize their compositional rhythm: a decision that perhaps accounts for his omission of Robinson’s decorative trees and his simplification of the foreground fences. However, if the two sketches were painted at the same time, it cannot have been in 1922, as the verso label states. Both Jackson’s autobiography and his 1922 correspondence place him only on the south‒not the north‒shore of the St Lawrence that year, and don’t mention Robinson at all.

However, whenever in the 1920s “Les Éboulements en haut” was painted, it embodies the qualities for which Arthur Lismer praised Robinson in one of his 1940 Canadian Picture Study booklets: “In Robinson’s pictures we expect no great dramatic subject treatment, nor dynamic lines and sombre tones. His art is the colorful expression of daily life, full of charm, devoid of sentimentality....” The qualities of intimacy and harmonious colour that Jackson associated with the north shore are certainly present in Robinson’s intimate sketch: “The south shore,” wrote Jackson, “... depends more on the contours of its big spaces ... its [sic] too intricate for sketching”. Indeed, part of the attraction of Les Éboulements en haut‒like that of many other 1920s sketches by Robinson‒resides in the deceptively simple compositional contrasts, in this case between the horizontality of the clustered buildings, and the soft diagonals of the foreground road, posts and snowdrifts. Equally characteristic of Robinson’s sketches is the refined colour scheme, with the subdued purplish tonality of the buildings punctuated by carefully placed areas of warm pink, orange, yellow and white, under a beautifully painted two-toned sky. These qualities in the sketch were for the most part retained in the larger (21.5” x 25.25”), highly finished canvas of the same name (Sotheby’s, 12 May 1987). The only striking compositional difference between the sketch and the canvas is a rearrangement of the sketch’s foreground fences: an alteration presumably made to increase the speed with which the eye travels from foreground to middle ground.

We extend our thanks to Brian Foss, Carleton University Chancellor’s Professor of Art & Architectural History, and co‒curator of “1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group” for his assistance in researching this artwork and for contributing the preceding essay.

Share this item with your friends

Albert Henry Robinson
(1881 - 1956) Canadian Group of Painters, RCA

Albert Henry Robinson (RCA) was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1881. Robinson studied in Hamilton with John S. Gordon and left for Paris in 1903. He continued his training at the Julian Academy with Bouguereau and Bachet, and then with Ferrier at the L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts. During his time there he travelled to Normandy and Corsica. After returning to Hamilton, John S. Gordon hired him as an assistant and Robinson exhibited his work for the first time in 1906. In 1910 he met and befriended A.Y. Jackson. Between 1918 and 1933 Robinson travelled along the shores of the St. Lawrence and in the Laurentians painting many landscapes, which constitute the bulk of his work.