Artwork by Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald,  Untitled (Broken Tree in Landscape)
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Mayberry Fine Art
212 McDermot Ave
Winnipeg MB R3B 0S3
Ph. 1(866)931-8415

Lot #107

L.L. FitzGerald
Untitled (Broken Tree in Landscape)

oil on canvas
signed lower left; inscribed “G56-29” on the reverse
14 x 17 in ( 35.6 x 43.2 cm )

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

Collection of The Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1956 (Acquired by The Women's Committee of the Winnipeg Art Gallery)
Paintings by the Canadian Group of Painters, Annual Art Exhibit, Heinz Art Salon, Heinz Ocean Pier, Atlantic City, N.J., Summer 1933, no. 19 as Dead Tree
An Exhibition of Paintings by the Canadian Group of Painters, Art Gallery of Toronto, 3 November–early December, 1933, no. 19 as Dead Tree
"Exhibition of Paintings by Canadian Group of Painters", Art Association of Montreal, 1-21 January 1934, no. 16 as "Dead Tree"
"Memorial Room for LeMoine FitzGerald 1890-1956", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 30 March 1957, no. 4 as "Broken Tree in Landscape"
"FitzGerald-Memorial Exhibition", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 23 February–23 March 1958, no. 66
"FitzGerald 1890-1956", Brush and Palette Club, Portage la Prairie, October 1958, no. 4
"The First Ten Years of the Women’s Committee/An Enthusiastic Venture", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 16 April–12 May 1961, no. 13
"Canadian Painting in the Thirties", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1975, no. 44
"Works of Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald and David Brown Milne", Southern Art Gallery, Lethbridge, 1977
"Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald: The Development of an Artist", Winnipeg Art Gallery; travelling to National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina; Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the Glenbow-Alberta Institute, Calgary, 28 July 1978–1 December 1979, no. 25
"FitzGerald in Context", Gallery One One One, University of Manitoba, 11 October–9 November 2007
"A Vital Force: The Canadian Group of Painters", Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston; travelling to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa; Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, 16 March 2013–21 September 2014, no. 14
"Into the Light: Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald", McMichael Canadian Art Collection; travelling to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, 12 October–7 September 2020
"The Winnipeg Art Gallery 1912-1962: An Introduction to the History, the Activities, and Collection", Winnipeg, 1962, page 31
Frank Bagnall, 'Canadian Artists’ Show', "Saturday Night 48", 21 October 1933, no. 50
L.L. FitzGerald to Bertram Brooker, 19 February 1937
Paul Duval, "High Realism in Canada", Toronto, 1974, page 38
Charles C. Hill, "Canadian Painting in the Thirties", Ottawa, 1975, page 71, reproduced page 81
Ann Davis, 'Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald: A North American Artist', in "Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald: The Development of an Artist", Winnipeg, 1978, reproduced page 47
Lund Humphries, "The True North: Canadian Landscape Painting 1896- 1939", London, 1991, reproduced page 94
"Art Talks Tours Videos Brochure", Winnipeg Art Gallery, November- December 1998, reproduced
"Winnipeg Art Gallery Pocket Exhibition Schedule", Fall/Winter 1998/1999, reproduced
"The Volunteer Committee 50th Anniversary Project", Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, 1998, reproduced page 4
Linda Jansma, 'Highlights from the Exhibitions 1933-1938', in "A Vital Force: The Canadian Group of Painters", Kingston, 2013, page 41, reproduced page 40
Michael Parke-Taylor, "Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald: Life & Work", Art Canada Institute [online publication], 2019, reproduced page 70
Sarah Milroy, Ian A.C. Dejardin and Michael Parke-Taylor, "Into the Light: Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald", Kleinburg, 2020, reproduced page 53
Winnipeg artist Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald sensed a “definite connection” to the Ontario-based Group of Seven although his aims differed significantly. He did not seek sublime views of Canada's vast wilderness as source material for his work nor did he buy into the Group’s aggressive brand of Canadian nationalism. His was a subtle approach to Canadian consciousness communicated by depicting the Winnipeg prairie and urban surroundings that he loved.

With a sequence of exceptional paintings, including "Pritchard’s Fence", circa 1928 (Art Gallery of Ontario), "Poplar Woods (Poplars)", 1929 (Winnipeg Art Gallery), and "Doc Snyder’s House", 1931 (National Gallery of Canada), FitzGerald achieved artistic maturity in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In May 1932, Arthur Lismer, acting on behalf of the Group of Seven, invited FitzGerald to become an official member. He was pleased to accept this recognition as the only Western Canadian artist to join their ranks. However, his direct association with them was short-lived. The Group disbanded by early 1933 and formed The Canadian Group of Painters (CGP), a larger exhibiting society consisting of the up-and-coming generation of Canadian modernists. FitzGerald was a founding member.

The first opportunity for the CGP to exhibit came during the summer of 1933 at the Heinz Art Salon located on the Heinz Ocean Pier, Atlantic City. Realizing that this would offer an international stage to showcase contemporary Canadian art south of the border, the participating artists chose those paintings which best represented their work. FitzGerald selected three outstanding small pictures that he had never exhibited: "At Silver Heights", 1931 (Art Gallery of Ontario), "Apples, Still Life", 1933 (Private Collection), and "Untitled (Broken Tree in Landscape)", originally titled "Dead Tree".

An American reviewer of the CGP exhibition, Frank Bagnall, singled out "Untitled (Broken Tree in Landscape)": “FitzGerald’s Dead Tree has a purity of form akin to the work of Georgia O’Keefe [sic].” Furthermore, FitzGerald’s painting evokes a similar kind of mystical wonder and beauty as that found in O’Keeffe’s visionary landscapes.

FitzGerald’s special relationship with nature is well documented in his writings. “The seeing of a tree, a cloud, an earth form always gives me a greater feeling of life than the human body. I really sense the life in the former, and only occasionally in the latter. I rarely feel so free in social intercourse with humans as I always feel with trees.” The tree featured in "Untitled (Broken Tree in Landscape)" is almost split in two, its upper trunk twisted and stripped of bark as if to reveal underlying muscle tissue and its splintered base evoking the legs of a human being. In keeping with his belief that nature is animated by a vital, living force, FitzGerald invests the seemingly dead tree with a life of its own. He adds a mystical element with a focused beam of light that illuminates a verdant valley bounded by a blue, curved, and shimmering aura. This painting conveys enigmatic and dream-like qualities (“surreal” as some observers have noted) that contribute to its originality making it one of the artist’s most accomplished pictures from the height of his career.

Michael Parke-Taylor is a Canadian art historian, curator, and author of "Bertram Brooker: When We Awake!" (McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 2024) and editor of "Some Magnetic Force: Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald Writings" (Concordia University Press, 2023).

This artwork is being sold to benefit the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)-Qaumajuq in establishing an endowment fund to support more diverse representation in the permanent collection, beginning with contemporary Canadian art. Cowley Abbott is pleased to donate our selling commission to the fund as part of the sale.
For additional images and/or details related to this artwork, please visit the digital catalogue:
Sale Date: May 30th 2024

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Mayberry Fine Art
212 McDermot Ave
Winnipeg MB R3B 0S3
Ph. 1(866)931-8415

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Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald
(1890 - 1956) Group of Seven, Canadian Group of Painters, WSC

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he received his education. At the age of 14, he went to work in a wholesale drug office. He also worked in an engraver’s plant and in a stockbroker’s office until he was 22. All this time, he had also attended art classes, nights, at A.S. Kesztheli’s Art School in Wpg. (1909-12). About 1912, he went into the field of art full time. He married Vally Wright and they had two children, Edward and Patricia. Working in many branches of art to support his family, he did everything from decorating windows to painting scenery. During this time, he was developing successfully in his easel painting and exhibited with the RCA between 1912 and 1925. His work was then strongly influenced by French Impressionists but was Canadian in subject matter. He held his first solo shows in 1921 at the WAG. Earlier that year, he had completed studies at the ASL/NY under Boardman Robinson and Kenneth Hayes Miller. In 1924, he joined the staff of the Winnipeg School of Art and four years later became its principal. Of this period, William Colgate in “Canadian Art” (1943) noted, “…he returned to Winnipeg to teach in its art school. In spite of his necessary preoccupation with teaching, he was steadily pursued his bent as a landscape painter and has occasionally been represented in more important exhibitions of Winnipeg, Toronto and elsewhere…”

Writing about his work, Donald Buchanan noted, “…Fitzgerald…worked too slowly and painstakingly ever to be affected by such vagaries of fashion…painted little, and that little with precise care. Most of his year was given over to his duties as principal of the Winnipeg School of Art. The relatively few water-colours and oils he did of the prairie or of the thin tracery of trees along the edges of Manitoba streams were, however, always much admired, as were also his more numerous drawings….”

Fitzgerald had been appointed Principal of the WSA in August of 1929. In the summer of 1929, he also met Bertram Brooker, artist, broadcaster and playwright, visiting his native Winnipeg on a business trip. The two artists then kept in contact with one another by letter. Fitzgerald had a profound influence on Brooker’s direction in art. Brooker turned from total abstraction to realism. Fitzgerald himself had moved to a greater stylization of his work. In 1929, F.B. Housser wrote, “His work is rarely seen in eastern galleries. A few years ago, his canvases were among the most popular exhibited in Winnipeg but a change of direction along more modern lines carried him ahead of the public and consequently into greater obscurity…. He works in oils and black-and-white and has also done mural painting, having executed a decorative scheme for a room in the St. Charles Hotel, Winnipeg.”

This change was to lead him into the ranks of the Group of Seven, the last member, in 1932, replacing J.E.H MacDonald, who had died earlier that year. Fitzgerald’s work took on more design, his trees became less detailed while at the same time his development of scenes from his house or his backyard began to appear; these were more meticulous, although never cluttered in detail. In 1933, he became a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters, which grew out of the Group of Seven, when it disbanded the same year. By the late 1940’s and 1950’s, he had returned to the cycle of the Impressionists, particularly reminiscent of one of its later members, Georges Seurat, although there is no evidence to suggest that he actually studied Seurat’s work. It was said of him, “A painter of the prairies, he was nevertheless a quiet man, the antithesis of the robustness sometimes associated with the West….” He made impressive graphics which included wood engravings, drypoints, and was especially successful with his linocuts. His drawings were always superb.

He did abstract and semi-abstract work in the 1950’s and had done a few in the late 1930’s. Some of his pen and ink drawings were done by making tiny flecks or short strokes to form an outline of his subjects. The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa has one of the finest collections of his work due to prudent purchases by its curators, singular bequest of the Douglas M. Duncan Collection, made through Duncan’s sister J.P. Barwick.

He was awarded an Honorary L.L.D., at the University of Manitoba (1952). In 1956, at the age of 66, he died of a heart attack. His ashes were scattered over the area of Snowflake, Manitoba, where he spent his youth during his summer holidays on his grandmother’s farm. In April of 1958, four galleries collaborated in a memorial exhibition at the NGC. The exhibition then went on tour. In May of 1963, an exhibition of 128 of his works titled, “A New Fitzgerald”, was shown at the WAG. The show included portraits, animal sketches, landscapes and a number of nudes.

In the Winnipeg suburb of St. James where he lived most of his life, the community named a lane “Fitzgerald’s Walk” in his memory.

Literature Source:
"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 1: A-F, 5th Edition, Revised and Expanded", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1997