Artwork by Robert Wakeham Pilot,  Cabbies, Old Montreal

Robert Pilot
Cabbies, Old Montreal

oil on board
signed lower right; titled and dated 1926 to a label on the reverse
6.25 x 8.75 in ( 15.9 x 22.2 cm )

Auction Estimate: $10,000.00$8,000.00 - $10,000.00

Price Realized $20,400.00
Sale date: May 30th 2024

Woods Estate, Ottawa (1987)
A.K. Prakash & Associates, Inc., Toronto (1987)
Peter Ohler Fine Art, Vancouver (1992)
Masters Gallery, Calgary
Private Collection
"Magazin'Art" (Spring 1994), reproduced page 112
A.K. Prakash, "Impressionism in Canada: A Journey of Rediscovery", Stuttgart, 2015, pages 621, 632
Soon after Robert Pilot’s return to Canada following the First World War, the Montreal painter was invited by A.Y. Jackson to include two of his works in the Group of Seven’s first exhibition in 1920. Following the exhibition, A.K. Prakash explains that Pilot declined “to formalize an association with these artists. Like Maurice Cullen, he differed philosophically from the group’s nationalistic approach to art. [Pilot] preferred to paint inhabited places rather than the untamed wilderness, so he differed philosophically from the group’s nationalist approach to art.” He was given the opportunity to study in Paris in 1920. There, he enrolled at the Academie Julian and exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1922. Upon his return to Canada, he was elected an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1925.

"Cabbies, Old Montreal" is one of Pilot’s quintessential inhabited scenes of Quebec, depicting a bustling scene of horse-drawn cabs in Montreal’s Old Port. “He generally excluded the new world from his record–there is, for example, a noticeable absence of automobiles in his compositions,” notes Prakash. “Rather, his paintings convey a precise image of a world that was soon to disappear.”

"Cabbies, Old Montreal" depicts a glimpse into another era, when Montreal was still a horse-dependent society. The monochromatic palette of pastel greys and mauve speak to Pilot’s influence of the European Impressionists; however, Pilot has applied these methods to a wintry subject that remains quintessentially Canadian.

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Robert Wakeham Pilot
(1898 - 1967) PRCA

Born in St. John's, Newfoundland, Robert Pilot moved to Montreal in 1910 when his widowed mother married well-known Canadian artist Maurice Cullen. Pilot found he was attracted to the artistic life as he helped his stepfather with chores in the studio and began sketching. He studied figure drawing at the Royal Canadian Academy and learned landscape painting with Cullen. As a student at the Art Association of Montreal, he was recognized as a gifted pupil by instructor William Brymner, who offered instruction to the penniless young artist free of charge on the condition that he would pay the fees when he was able.

After serving overseas in WWI he returned to Montreal and was invited to participate in the first Group of Seven exhibition in 1920. For a time he concentrated on the etching medium, with the desire to develop his own style apart from that of his stepfather. He was given the opportunity to study in Paris with the help of a generous patron and travelled to Paris in 1920. There he studied at the Academie Julian and exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1922. On his return to Canada he was elected an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy. Exhibiting with the RCA gave him more visibility and some of his works were acquired by the National Gallery of Canada. After several successful exhibitions he travelled abroad painting in France, Spain, and North Africa. In addition to oil paintings and etchings he worked in pastel and completed several mural commissions in public buildings. More successful shows followed and he continued to paint, although he served his country once again in WW2. His Canadian impressionist painting style was shaped by his years in France, the influence of his stepfather, Maurice Cullen, and the work of J. W. Morrice, whom he greatly admired. He was elected president of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1952. Pilot died in 1967 and was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1969.