Artwork by David Brown Milne,  Outlet of the Pond, Late Afternoon, 1926

David Milne
Outlet of the Pond, Late Afternoon, 1926

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1926 upper right; titled on the exhibition label on the reverse; titled and dated “Landscape, Temagami Period, 1928” on the gallery label on the reverse; Milne catalogue raisonné no. 207.80
18.25 x 22 ins ( 46.4 x 55.9 cms )

Auction Estimate: $90,000.00$70,000.00 - $90,000.00

Price Realized $528,000.00
Sale date: December 6th 2023

Acquired directly from the Artist
Emily Kimball, New York
Jerrold Morris Gallery, Toronto
Dr. and Mrs. A.D. Taliano, Ontario
Acquired by the present Private Collection, November 1985
“Collector's Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; travelling to Musée du Québec, Québec City; Vancouver Art Gallery; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, 14 May 1988‒7 May 1989, no. 91
“David Milne Retrospective Exhibition”, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal, September 2001, no. 30
“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
“David Milne Modern Painting”, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, England; travelling to Vancouver Art Gallery; McMichael Collection of Canadian Art, Kleinburg, Ontario, 14 February 2018‒13 January 2019
“This Museum Lasts One Night, Pop Up Museum”, Canadian Friends of the Israel Museum, Toronto, 13 August 2019
Dennis Reid, “Collector's Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Toronto, 1988, no. 91, page 6, reproduced page 81
David P. Silcox, “Painting Place: The Life and Work of David B. Milne”, Toronto 1996, page 173
David Milne Jr. and David P. Silcox, “David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume 1: 1882‒1928”, Toronto, 1998,
no. 207.80, listed and reproduced page 430
Sarah Milroy and Ian A.C. Dejardin (eds.), “David Milne: Modern Painting”, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, reproduced page 136
Ian Thom, et al., “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver/London, 2015
David and Patsy Milne lived in the Moose Lake and Lake Placid area of the Adirondack Mountains in New York State from 1924‒29. Milne was then in his mid‒forties, highly accomplished, and especially during his early years in New York City, highly acclaimed. But no matter what his talent, achievements, and passionate commitment to painting, Milne was not established financially. He chose the Lake Placid area in part because it was a year‒round vacation destination for the elite of the Northeast USA. The Milnes often lived and worked there in the winters. In the summers, they managed a tea house on nearby Big Moose Lake.

Always striving for independence, Milne borrowed money from his collector and confidant, James Clarke, to purchase land and built a large cottage at Big Moose Lake. He planned to either rent or sell it. The project took much longer, and cost more, than he anticipated. The cabin did not sell until the summer of 1928. Milne made his plight clear in a letter to letter to Clarke in September 1926: “The teahouse season hasn't been anything wonderful. The house isn't sold yet. I have no pants, none to speak of, and not much in the way of coat and shirt, but I still feel nearly human. The little trickle of painting has given me some feeling of life...”. Energetic but impecunious, he had little time for his art.

Milne’s difficult situation makes “Outlet of the Pond, Late Afternoon” especially remarkable. Reflecting his life circumstances only to the extent that it was a local scene, the painting is confident yet subtle. His touch in this oil is characteristically delicate, both in the linear outlines of shorelines, for example, and in the contrasting dark pigments that have soaked into the canvas across the top, suggesting trees. Pinpoints of orange, purple, and green indicate early autumn. These accents reverberate on the stumps and fallen timber in the foreground. We are clearly not in the wilderness; the felled trees are perhaps an echo of Milne’s own hand‒built cabin, for which he used local trees he cut and prepared himself. Typically for Milne, the scene is not naturalistic but redolent of a specific ‘painting place,’ as he called a series of paintings done later in this area. His painting is ‘atmospheric’ in two ways: we are aware of the saturated air in which the colours seem to swim and of the mood of tranquility amidst seasonal change.

Especially memorable in “Outlet of the Pond, Late Afternoon” are the evocative reflections of foliage in the mirror‒still water. Here Milne reaches back to a motif and a technique that he had mastered in what he called in the 1920s his “pool pictures.” It is this effect that transforms a quite ordinary landscape on an ordinary day into a memorable scene, a place for reflection in a fuller sense.

We extend our thanks to Dr. Mark A. Cheetham, a freelance writer, curator and professor of art history at the University of Toronto for contributing the preceding essay. He is the author of “Abstract Art Against Autonomy: Infection, Resistance, and Cure since the '60s” (Cambridge University Press).

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David Brown Milne
(1881 - 1953) Canadian Group of Painters

Milne was born near Paisley, Ontario. A childhood interest in art, which revived while he was teaching, led him to take a correspondence course and eventually he travelled to New York City to continue his studies. This was somewhat of an exception in the early twentieth-century Canadian art scene as the majority of artists went to Europe to study. While in New York City, Milne worked as a commercial illustrator for several years before deciding to give up this work and devote his time to painting. Shortly after making this decision he moved to Boston Corners in New York.

Throughout his life Milne sought the peace and solitude of a rural life. In his paintings, Milne explored different viewpoints. He greatly admired the work of Tom Thomson but had little interest in the nationalistic approach of the Group of Seven. His themes range from landscapes to views of towns and cities, still lifes and imaginary subjects. His experiments with different media and changing viewpoints show his interest in the process of painting itself. In 1929, Milne returned to settle permanently in Canada, stopping for brief periods in Temagami, Weston, and Palgrave. He built a secluded cabin at Six Mile Lake, north of Orillia, and spent the next six years painting, for the most part, alone. Milne was interested in 'pure' painting, in "adventures in shape, colour, texture and space" as he called his watercolours of the 1930s and 1940s. The change from the less vibrant drybrush "adventures" to the fantasy watercolours is often attributed to the birth of his only child, David Jr., born to Milne's second wife when Milne was sixty. His young son encouraged him to adopt a new, vibrant and often whimsical approach to his art. Milne spent the rest of his life in Uxbridge, north of Toronto, exploring the Haliburton and Bancroft areas as well as the city of Toronto.