Artwork by Horatio Walker,  A Load of Wood, Winter

Horatio Walker
A Load of Wood, Winter

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1916 lower right
18 x 24 ins ( 45.7 x 61 cms )

Auction Estimate: $30,000.00$20,000.00 - $30,000.00

Price Realized $36,000.00
Sale date: June 8th 2023

Montross Gallery, New York
Private collection, United States
Sotheby’s, auction, Toronto, 12-13 May 1987, lot 176 as “Loading the Sleigh, Dusk”
Private Collection
Fraser’s Auctions, Montreal, October 1988
Private Collection
Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal
Acquired by the present Private collection, 1989

“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
“Highlights from ‘Embracing Canada’,” Annual Loan Exhibition, Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Montreal, 22 October–5 November 2016, no. 16
Lyne Gravel, “Les Oeuvres d’Horatio Walker,” Musée du Québec, 1987
A.K. Prakash, ‘Horatio Walker A.R.C.: le vieux maître de l’Île d’Orléans’, “Magazin’Art 7:4” (Ète/Summer 1995), pages 76-81, reproduced page 79
A.K. Prakash, “Canadian Art Selected Masters from Private Collections”, Ottawa, 2003, reproduced page 33
Ian Thom, et al., “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver/ London, 2015, reproduced page 54
“A Load of Wood, Winter” was most likely painted at the village of Ste-Pétronille on
Île d’Orléans, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City. Horatio Walker had begun visiting the island several years before the end of the nineteenth century, had purchased a residence, and was spending more and more time there until he finally moved permanently to the village in 1928. Although he had been born in Listowel, Ontario in 1858, he had a longstanding love affair with French Quebec.

By 1916, however, Walker’s vision of Ste-Pétronille had become largely frozen in time. Twelve years later, in 1928, the Montreal art critic and journalist Jean Chauvin, in his book Ateliers, observed that Walker’s representations of Île d’Orléans often seemed to be documenting long-ago French-Canadian life, or even mid-nineteenth-century peasant life in France, when farmers wore clogs and lived lives in thatched-roof houses, largely isolated from the modern world. Walker stoutly resisted the inescapable coming of the twentieth century to Île d’Orléans, unsuccessfully opposing both the arrival of automobiles and the building of a bridge linking the island with Quebec City. “A Load of Wood, Winter”, however, is less atemporal than many of Walker’s other paintings, even if his fondness for nostalgic romanticism is manifested in the evocatively symbolic background sunset and the wooden ox cart.

“A Load of Wood, Winter” was painted either shortly before or shortly after the 1916 collapse of the Canadian Art Club. The CAC had been formed in 1908 with the goal of raising the level of interest in Canadian art exhibitions by, in part, encouraging largely expatriate artists such as Walker and James Wilson Morrice to spend more time showing in Canada. (Walker was so closely identified with the United States and its art market that he was regularly assumed to be an American artist.) Walker’s membership in the CAC did encourage him to participate more actively in Canadian exhibitions, and he was even elected president of the club in 1915, with the result that Canadian awareness of his work was heightened. That awareness that would have been bolstered by canvases such as “A Load of Wood, Winter”, in which his lusciously generous paint application lent his nostalgic imagery a contemporary look that proved popular with critics and collectors. Walker’s star would subsequently be eclipsed following the formation in 1920 of the Group of Seven and the Beaver Hall Group; but for the time being his warmly painted, empathetic views of rural French-Canadian life appealed strongly to appreciative audiences.

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.

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Horatio Walker
(1858 - 1938) RCA

Horatio Walker was born in 1858 in midwestern Ontario. His formal schooling ended at the Listowel Public School in 1872; he never went on to pursue formal academic training in art. At the age of 15, Walker moved to Toronto to apprentice with the photographic firm Notman and Fraser. It was a fortunate opportunity, as several successful artists worked also there; Walker learned watercolour from Robert Gagnon, miniature portrait painting from John Fraser, and painting from Lucius O’Brien and Henri Perre.
Walker was a member of several artists' organizations, including the American Watercolor Society, the Royal Canadian Academy of Art, the Society of American Artists, the National Academy of Design, and the British Institute of Watercolours. He was a founding member of the Canadian Art Club, which elected him as its president in 1915. In 1928 he officially retired and moved to Sainte-Petronille, Quebec, where he died in 1938.