Artwork by Peleg Franklin Brownell,  By-ward Market

Franklin Brownell
By-ward Market

oil on panel
signed lower right; titled and dated circa 1916 on the exhibition label on the reverse; titled “Winter Afternoon, The Hay Market, Ottawa” on the gallery label on the reverse
14 x 22 ins ( 35.6 x 55.9 cms )

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

Price Realized $28,800.00
Sale date: December 6th 2023

Private Collection, Arizona, USA
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal
Acquired by the present Private Collection, April 2010
“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
Ian Thom, et al., “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver/London, 2015, reproduced page 4
A.K. Prakash, Impressionism in Canada: A Journey of Rediscovery, Stuttgart, 2015, pages 401 and 403
Internationally trained in the United States and France, Franklin Brownell’s work “followed strict Academic standards in the French tradition – drawing, composition, colour harmony, and expression‒ perfecting the union of content and form in his work.” Before settling in Ottawa in 1887 to become headmaster of the Ottawa School of Art, the painter spent four years abroad “immersing himself in the figurative style and genre painting of French Academicism.” Brownell held the position at the school until its closure in 1899. From 1900 until the school was revived in the early 1920s, he taught under the auspices of the Women's Art Association of Ottawa. Brownell rapidly established himself in Canadian art circles, becoming an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1895, and a full member in 1895. He was also a founding member of the Canadian Art Club in Toronto in 1907. Through the club, he became friendly with Maurice Cullen and James Wilson Morrice. As a result, his palette began to lighten. “By-ward Market”, painted in 1916, displays a similar impressionistic depiction of a Canadian winter scene to those of Cullen and Morrice. Thick snowflakes scatter across the buildings, horses and figures as they fall to the white ground in the centre of the street.

The ByWard Market was founded in 1826, and today, it is one of Canada’s oldest public markets. Brownell would have witnessed the steady expansion of the market throughout his life. In this painting, horses are transporting straw and market goods, surrounded by vendors and other staff. Though celebrated as an Impressionist, Brownell also created social realist depictions of the city, demonstrating a sensitivity to urban concerns that was rare among his contemporaries. The market buildings portrayed in Brownell’s paintings are no longer standing today, as they would have been destroyed in a major 1926 fire, before the ByWard Market was rebuilt with the present‒day building.

Share this item with your friends

Peleg Franklin Brownell
(1857 - 1946) RCA, OSA

Peleg Franklin Brownell was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in July 1857, and studied at the Tufts School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, before going to Paris to study at the Academie Julian under Tony Robert-Fleury, Adolphe-William Bouguereau and Leon Bonnat. He remained in Paris until at least 1883, and then he returned to the United States, living first in New Bedford, and then in New York. He had met Canadian artist Willliam Brymner in Paris in 1881, before Brymner returned to Canada to become the principal of the Ottawa Art School. After both Brymner and his successor as the school’s principal, Charles Moss, moved elsewhere, Brownell was hired as the Ottawa Art School’s third principal in 1887, remaining in the position until the school’s closure in 1899. From 1900 until the school was revived in the early 1920s, he taught under the auspices of the Woman's Art Association of Ottawa. He finally retired from teaching in 1937, having taught many well-known and lesser well-known Canadian artists, including Frank Hennessey, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, and Henri Masson.

Once settled in Ottawa, Brownell rapidly established himself in Canadian art circles, becoming an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1895, and a full member in 1895. He was also a member of the Ontario Society of Arts from 1899 to 1907, when he left that organization to help found the rival Canadian Art Club. His early work included Lamplight, an 1892 domestic scene which was exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, which was purchased by the RCA and presented to the National Gallery of Canada. His RCA diploma work, The Photographer, became part of the National Gallery’s collection in 1896. Brownell, although known as a painter of Ottawa and its environs, also painted in the West Indies, the US, the lower St. Lawrence, and the Gaspé. Although well-known for his landscapes, he produced portraits, flower studies, marine and genre scenes in oil, watercolour and pastel. He exhibited widely, in the annual exhibitions of several art associations, including the RCA, OSA, and the Art Association of Montreal; at more than a dozen exhibitions held at James Wilson & Co. Art Gallery in Ottawa from 1900 onwards; and in such international exhibitions as the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, the 1900 Paris World's Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, St Louis, 1904, and the British Empire Exhibition held at Wembley, England, in 1924-25. His work is to be found in most major Canadian art galleries, as well as in many private collections.

Brownell remains an elusive figure, as there is little evidence available in the form of diaries and correspondence to enable an art historian to learn more about his outlook or artistic philosophy. William Brymner described him as “a nice sort of cove” in 1881, and his firm friendships with many artists, collectors, and connoisseurs, most notably Eric Brown, director of the National Gallery of Canada from 1910 to 1939, attest to a likeable and well-respected man. On his death in March 1946, he was described as “a shy, retiring man” who was “one of the soundest artists in Canada”.

We extend our thanks to Jim Burant, Canadian Art Academic, for contributing this biography.