Artwork by Ozias Leduc,  Les foins (The Hayfield), 1901

Ozias Leduc
Les foins (The Hayfield), 1901

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1901 lower right
24 x 36 ins ( 61 x 91.4 cms )

Auction Estimate: $80,000.00$60,000.00 - $80,000.00

Price Realized $288,000.00
Sale date: December 6th 2023

The Artist
Philippe‒Auguste Choquette, 1901
Fernand Choquette, 1948
Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal
Acquired by the present Private Collection, May 1975
Louis Morency Gallery, Quebec City, June 1901
“Historische Malerei Kanadas in OKanada”, Akademie der Kunste, Berlin, 5 December 1982–30 January 1983, no. 29
“Kanadische Malerei 19. und 20. Jahrhundert”, Instituts fur Auslandsbeziehungen, Stuttgart, Germany, 9 February-13 March 1983, no. 29
“Collector's Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection,” Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; travelling to Musée du Québec, Quebec City; Vancouver Art Gallery; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, 14 May 1988‒7 May 1989, no. 44
“Ozias Leduc: An Art of Love and Reverie”, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; travelling to Musée du Québec, Québec City; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 22 February 1996‒15 January 1997, no. 95
“Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860‒1918”, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 18 June‒27 September 2009
“Forging the Path: The Forerunners (1870‒1920),” McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario, 2 October 2010‒23 January 2011
“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
“Chefs‒d'œuvres de l'exposition ‘Embracing Canada’”, Eric Klinkhoff Gallery, 22 October‒5 November 2016
Jean Rémuna [pseud. Arsène Bessette], ‘M. Osias Leduc’, “Le Canada français”, 3 May 1901, page 2
‘Belles peintures’, “L’Union des Cantons de l’Est,” 14 June 1901, page 2
Arthur Lemay, ‘L’œuvre du peintre Osias Leduc. Un artiste du terroir à St-Hilaire de Rouville’, “Le Terroir”, vol. 8, nos. 11 and 12, March/ April 1928, reproduced pages 186–187
Laurier Lacroix, “Ozias Leduc the Draughtsman”, Montreal, 1978, no. 46, reproduced page 158
Janice Seline, ‘The Real and the Ideal: Progress and the Landscapes of Ozias Leduc’, “Ozias Leduc the Draughtsman”, Sir George Williams Art Galleries, Montreal, 1978, pages 107–123
“Historische Malerei Kanadas in OKanada”, Berlin, 1982, no. 29, page 59, reproduced page 61
“Kanadische Malerei 19. und 20. Jahrhundert”, Stuttgart, 1983, no. 29, reproduced page 61 as “Les Foins,” 1901
Dennis Reid, “Collector's Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Toronto, 1988, no. 4, reproduced page 50
Barbara Ann Winters, “The Work and Thought of Ozias Leduc in the Intellectual and Social Context of his Time”, (M.A. Thesis, University of Victoria, 1990), figure 43, pages 154–155
Arlene Margaret Gehmacher, “The Mythologization of Ozias Leduc, 1890–1954”, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Toronto, 1995, figure 14, pages 149–154
Laurier Lacroix, “Les foins, Ozias Leduc: A Work of Love and Reverie”, Montreal, 1996, no. 122, reproduced page 151
Joan Murray, “Home Truths,” Toronto, 1998, plate 29, reproduced page 51
Joan Murray, “Celebrating Home: A Collection of Canada’s Best-Loved Painters,” Toronto, 2008, upaginated, reproduced
Pierre Lambert, “Ozias Leduc : Le peintre en quête de beauté”, Saint- Sauveur, 2013, reproduced page 61
Hilliard T. Goldfarb, “Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860-1918”, Montreal, 2009, no. 112, reproduced page 200
Katerina Atanassova, “Forging the Path: The Forerunners (1870-1920)”, Kleinburg, 2010, reproduced page 13
Pierre Lambert, “Ozias Leduc : Le peintre en quête de beauté”, Saint- Sauveur, 2013, reproduced page 61
Ian Thom, et. al, “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver/London, 2015, reproduced page 155 “Chefs-d’œuvres de l’exposition ‘Embracing Canada’", Eric Klinkhoff Gallery, 2016, reproduced page 5
“The Hayfield” belongs to a cycle of three paintings by Ozias Leduc (1864–1955), including “Labour d’automne” (Fall Plowing, MNBAQ 1942.57) and “La ferme Choquette, l’hiver (The Choquette Farm, Beloeil”, MNBAQ 1978.93). The works are inspired by three seasons: summer, autumn and winter. They were commissioned by Judge Philippe- Auguste Choquette (1854–1948), a native of Saint-Mathieu-de- Beloeil. Indeed, he and his two brothers, Ernest and Charles-Philippe, were friends and patrons of Leduc.

Journalist Arsène Bessette, who visited Leduc’s studio in Saint-Hilaire on April 8, 1901, noticed the three barely finished works. Exhibited at the galerie Morency in Quebec City in June, he shared the following comment: “ [...] the second [painting] represents a portion of the paternal farm, when hay is harvested, and Mr. Choquette, father, a brave farmer, sharpens his scythe while his workers work in the fields a short distance from him. Everything in this painting: colours, physiognomy, attitude, denotes a real artistic talent in its author. [...] We cannot sufficiently praise the talent of Mr. Leduc and the excellent idea of the Hon. Judge Choquette to adorn his vast salons with paintings of such great merit and which, in addition, have the advantage of constantly presenting to him scenes from his childhood, unforgettable scenes in all phases of life.”

To depict the peasant sharpening his scythe, Leduc used photography. The Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec (Montreal) holds a photograph in the Ozias Leduc fonds, showing a man sharpening his scythe on a snowbank, suggesting that the artist conceived the work during the winter of 1900–1901.

The commission closely follows the production of sixteen drawings to illustrate the novel “Claude Paysan” (1899) by Doctor Ernest Choquette, brother of Philippe-Auguste (see lot 111, “The Meeting of Fernande and Claude”). This book, set in Saint-Hilaire, where Leduc lived, allowed him to depict for the first time views inspired by this village, conveniently located between the Richelieu River and Mont Saint- Hilaire.

Each of the three paintings of the commission is bathed in a subtle tone: a gray-brown for “Fall Ploughing”, a creamy white for “The Choquette Farm, Beloeil,” while “The Hayfield” is distinguished by its warm tones of golden yellow and greens, enhanced by blue and pink strokes. The landscape is dominant, and each scene discreetly presents an activity specific to the season depicted.

While his contemporaries were attached to the rural subjects depicted by Leduc, the very essence of his art interests us. The qualities of the painterly material and brushwork used to texture the fields and animate the clouds, the subtlety of his palette, the fluidity of the composition framed by the trees and the pole fence, and the shadowy area of the foreground offer so many details that demonstrate the attention that the painter brings to the realization of the painting. While the sun is at its zenith and contrasting shadows occupy the landscape, Leduc depicts a scene that evokes a vast landscape of the fertile St. Lawrence Valley. Harvest time suggests the bounty of the land as well as the hard work of field workers. These are in harmony with the environment. The curve of the scythe continues in the shape of the field to be cut, and the clouds hug the roundness of the veils. The forces of man combine with the work of nature to provide an abundant harvest. Here Leduc deals with a theme that he will later develop, that of salvation through work, of the union of man with Creation using his daily activities carried out with diligence. The painting celebrates this agreement of the inhabitants with their environment; it glorifies nature and the individuals who recognize its value.

We extend our thanks to Laurier Lacroix, C.M., art historian, for researching this artwork and contributing the preceding essay.

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Ozias Leduc
(1864 - 1955) RCA

Born at St. Hilaire, Quebec, he began to paint with Luigi Cappello in the decoration of Saint-Pail l'Ermite church. Cappello was an Italian painter who had done church decoration for many churches in Quebec. Later Leduc became associated with Adolphe rho in the decoration of the church of Yamachiche, including the painting of a copy of Raphael's “Transfiguration” and, a picture entitled “Bapteme du Christ” destined for the church of Saint-Jean-in-Montana, Jerusalem. Although this last painting was done by Leduc it was a commission given to Rho and done in his shops and therefore signed by Rho. An engraving after this painting was made but was not a faithful reproduction of the original work.

Most of Leduc's art training was acquired through the process of observation and self teaching. By the age of twenty-three, Leduc was producing beautiful still life studies bathes in warm candle light or from the light of a distant window. A painting from this period entitled “Les Trois Pommes” was given to Paul-Emile Borduas by the artist as Borduas was his assistant for many years in the decoration of churches and a life long friend.

In 1892, Leduc entered a painting in the Art Association of Montreal annual show and won a prize for the best work done by an artist under thirty. It was during this year and the next that he did decorations for the Joliette Cathedral.

In 1897 he sailed for France in the company of Suzor-Côté. There Leduc became considerably impressed with three lessor known Impressionists, René Ménard, Alfons Mucha and Le Sidaner also Maurice Denis in religious art especially.

He returned to Canada after eight months and set to work on decorations for the church at St. Hilaire. Nothing the effect of the Impressionists on Leduc's work, Jean René Ostiguy explained, “But the techniques of French impressionism, when transplanted to Saint-Hilaire, bore a very different fruit. For Leduc they were the means for weaving reveries and for expressing the tenderness which he felt before all life and all created things. His drawing, the care he devoted to his surfaces, show his early influences. But the real difference came in the handling of light. From him light was the symbol of another, an ideal world. He saw nature in the light of his dreams, and there is good reason for associating him with the surrealist tendency which is sometimes to be found in Renaissance painting. Because of his development took this unusual course, Leduc's paintings are not modern in the ordinary sense. Yet in a deeper sense they are completely contemporary in spirit. His insistence on the poetic basis of art and his strongly personal manner of expression are qualities which contemporary painters revere and seek as essential elements in their work.”

Also commenting on the artists Gilles Corbeil noted, “The extraordinary care which Ozias Leduc lavished on his paintings is almost unbelievable. He seems at every moment to have been conscious of some moral responsibility for the way he treated his canvases and handled his brush and his colours. Nothing was left undone; no care was too great. Everything which went into the making of a picture, from the preparation of the stretcher for the canvas, was the work of his own hands. One begins to wonder what brush could have been soft enough, what palette smooth enough, to have been employed in the creation of such exquisite paintings. But the really touching thing about Leduc is the tenderness, even sanctity, which seems to govern all his work. For him, painting was never merely a manual craft but a flowering character, an act of grace. For him the paint itself seemed sensitive, and perhaps it was for fear of violating it that he treated it with such greatness.” Corbeil went on to explain that throughout his life Leduc painted only some twenty still life studies of simple everyday things such as a candlestick, a loaf of bread, apples, a book, violin, a knife or spoon beside a bowl but he never painted flowers in these studies. Corbeil equated Leduc's treatment of objects with that os jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, the Frech master who also endowed his still lifes with a certain dignity although Chardin was a more worldly and sophisticated painter. Corbeil thought too, that the enchanted austerity of Leduc's paintings might be better compares to the Dutch still life painter Willem Claesz Heda. Heda, however, unlike Leduc included flowers in his compositions but he achieved that aura of silence that Leduc always created in his still lifes.

During the earlier part of his life, Leduc did a number of portraits as well as landscapes. He made his living mainly from church decorations of which he did more than one hundred and fifty paintings for about twenty-eight cathedrals, churches, or chapels. His portraits and other works were done with oil on paper, oil on cardboard, oil on canvas. He did a number of oil on cardboard paintings. He kept track of his pencil drawings which were at times done on the back of envelopes and sometimes numbered.

In 1916 he was elected Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy and in 1938 received the degree of Doctor Hornoris Causa from the University of Montreal. In addition, he illustrated many novels, poetry books and anthologies.

There have been three important showings of Leduc's work as follows: at the St. Sulpice Library, Montreal in 1916; a retrospective exhibition at the Lycée Pierre Corneille, Montreal in 1954 and a retrospective exhibition organized by Jean René Ostiguy for the National Gallery of Canada which included forty-one oil, charcoal, and coloured crayon drawings and paintings. Leduc was still active at the age of ninety, overseeing the work for the decoration of the church at Almaville-en-Bas near Shawinigan Falls. He died at St. Hyacinthe aged ninety-one. He is represented in the following public collections: Museum of the Province of Quebec; The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of Canada.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977