Artwork by James Wilson Morrice,  Sailboats, circa 1905-1906

J.W. Morrice
Sailboats, circa 1905-1906

oil on panel
4.75 x 6 ins ( 12.1 x 15.2 cms )

Auction Estimate: $40,000.00$30,000.00 - $40,000.00

Price Realized $48,000.00
Sale date: December 6th 2023

Scott & Sons, Montreal, before 1924
Henry L. Putnam, Montreal, before 1931
D&J Ritchie, auction, Toronto, 26 September 1980, lot 1056 as “Sailboats, Lac St. Louis”
Private Collection, British Columbia
Winchester Gallery, Victoria, January 2011
Private Collection, Victoria
A. Lever & C. Moorfield, “D&J Ritchie, Canadian Art Auction Prices, 1975–1980”, Vol.1, listed page 61, reproduced page 66 as “Sailboats, Lac St. Louis”
“The Gazette”, Montreal; “Edmonton Journal”; “The Ottawa Citizen”, 1980–1981, reproduced multiple times as an advertisement
Anne–Marie Bouchard ‘James Wilson Morrice and Fin-de-siècle France’ in Katerina Atanassova, “Morrice: The A.K. Prakash Collection in Trust to the Nation”, Ottawa, 2017, page 81
Sailboats were a popular subject for Morrice, who had been fascinated by them since his early childhood. As Anne–Marie Bouchard notes, “Morrice fits historically within the wake of Impressionists and Post–Impressionists such as Pierre–Auguste Renoir, and Gustave Caillebotte, Pissarro and Signac, who were obviously partial to seascapes.” The style of boats indicate that they were private boats and were not used for fishing.

“Sailboats” presents a lively scene, painted in the bright oranges and turquoise colours that were inspired by the work of the Fauves. James Wilson Morrice would have encountered the Fauvist paintings in the Salon d'Automne of 1905 that shocked the viewing public. Morrice had four oil studies entered in the Salon that year. While Morrice proves that he was able to assimilate the pure Fauvist hues, the light brushwork is characteristically his own. The technique employed by Morrice likely dates this work to circa 1905–1906. During that time period, Morrice travelled extensively across Europe, including Dieppe (Normandy), Saint–Malo (North of Brittany), and Concarneau/Le Pouldu (South Brittany), among other locations.

We extend our thanks to Lucie Dorais, Canadian art historian and author of “J.W. Morrice (National Gallery of Canada, 1985)” for researching this artwork.

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James Wilson Morrice
(1865 - 1924) RCA

Born in Montreal to a prominent family of textile merchants, Morrice spent most of his life abroad, much of it in Paris. He had gone there to enrol in the Academie Julian, the best-known of the private art schools that lured dozens of young Canadian artists to cross the ocean with the promise of technical proficiency and stylistic sophistication. Soon Morrice was studying with the Barbizon painter Henri Harpignies and looking intently at the pictures of the cutting-edge Nabis members. Affable and gregarious, Morrice was well liked in Paris among the local and emigre vanguard, notably his friends the great Henri Matisse and the influential American painter Robert Henri. He did well, showing in the most prestigious exhibitions of new art, including the Salons, and selling to discerning European collections of the highest rank. If he is remembered mostly in Canada today, it may be because Canadian collectors repatriated most of his pictures after his death, leaving Europeans with little to go on. He had been careful to maintain a reputation at home, showing here regularly and returning frequently for Christmas, which would explain why most of his Canadian pictures are winter scenes. Young Canadian artists held him in considerable esteem during his lifetime for his fearless modernism and his success in Europe. A stylistically hybrid artist, Morrice combined a lush and often dusky Post-Impressionist tone with nonchalant brushwork of a plumb assuredness, softening the blunt structures of his Fauvist friends. What results are paintings as complicated as they are straightforward and often redolent with suppressed emotion. Morrice tends to smallish pictures that draw you in, only to surprise you by their resolute diffidence. Irresistible and remote, his pictures ask for intimacy but keep their distance, like nostalgia, like longing. Morrice ran with a fast crowd of glittering cosmopolitans. Alcoholism got the better of him by the end of his fifties; his health ultimately failed while in North Africa where he had painted with Matisse and where he died at fifty-eight.

Source: National Gallery of Canada