Artwork by David Brown Milne,  Bare Trees in Snow (New York)
Thumbnail of Artwork by David Brown Milne,  Bare Trees in Snow (New York) Thumbnail of Artwork by David Brown Milne,  Bare Trees in Snow (New York) Thumbnail of Artwork by David Brown Milne,  Bare Trees in Snow (New York) Thumbnail of Artwork by David Brown Milne,  Bare Trees in Snow (New York)

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Cowley Abbott
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

Lot #102

David Milne
Bare Trees in Snow (New York)

oil on canvas
inscribed “David Milne: Bare Trees in Snow, New York 1914-15” and “Winnipeg Art Gallery” on the stretcher; catalogue raisonné no. 106.7
18.25 x 20.25 in ( 46.4 x 51.4 cm )

Auction Estimate: $250,000.00$150,000.00 - $250,000.00

Picture Loan Society (Douglas Duncan), Toronto
Collection of The Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1962
"Paintings by David Milne", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 26 January 1962
"Selections from the Permanent Collection", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1 July -1 August 1962
"David B. Milne from the Winnipeg Art Gallery Collection"", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 22 December 1975-4 February 1976
Works of Lionel LeMoine FizGerald and David Brown Milne", Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta, 4-26 June 1977
"Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald and David B. Milne: Selections from the Winnipeg Art Gallery Collection", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 19 January-24 February 1980
"The Development of Canadian Art", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 14 April 1980–13 July 1980
"The Canadian Landscape", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 30 April-7 June 1981
"Some Canadian Landscape Painters from the Winnipeg Art Gallery Collection", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 10 October 1981-28 February 1982
"An Evolving Tradition: Canadian Landscape Painting", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 12 February-12 June 1983
"Trees of a Thousand Kind and Tall", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 10 December 1983-1 April 1984
"Historical Canadian Works from the Collection", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 31 May-19 October 1986
"David Milne", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 31 January-22 February 1987
"Stored Secrets: The Vault on View", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 11 September-27 November 1994
"David Milne: Interior with Paintings", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 18 January-29 March 1998
"David Milne", Winnipeg Art Gallery; travelling to the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Brandon; Thunder Bay Art Gallery; Moose Jaw Art Museum, National Exhibition Centre, Saskatchewan; Prairie Art Gallery, Grande Prairie, Alberta and Kamloops Art Gallery,
18 January 1998-15 April 2001
"Into the Collection", The Winnipeg Art Gallery, 23 July 2005-13 August 2006
"The Collection on View: The Modernist Tradition 1900-1950", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 19 February 2010-31 July 2011
"The Collection on View: The Modernist Tradition 1900-1950", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 19 August 2011-31 March 2013
'Showing of Milne Paintings Is Special Event of Friday', "Winnipeg Tribune", 20 January 1962, reproduced page 16 (exhibition photograph)
Pierre Theberge, "Douglas M. Duncan Collection and the Milne-Duncan Bequest", Ottawa, 1971, reproduced on the frontispiece
Alan Hepburn Jarvis, "Douglas Duncan: A Memorial Portrait", Toronto, 1974, reproduced on the frontispiece and jacket
Paul Caulfield, "A Path of His Own: The Story of David B. Milne", film, 1979, the picture is painted over a landscape of circa 1911
"Winnipeg Art Gallery Pocket Exhibition Schedule", Fall/Winter 1997/1998, reproduced
Mary Jo Hughes, "David Milne: Interior with Paintings. A Selection of Works from the Permanent Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery", Winnipeg, 1998
David Milne Jr. and David P. Silcox, "David B. Milne: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume 1: 1882–1928", Toronto, 1998, reproduced page 141, no.106.7
One of the pleasures of David Milne’s work is that we can see the formal experiments that he habitually set for himself and follow how he worked and thought through these challenges. In "Bare Trees in Snow (New York)", there is an oscillation between surface pattern and the receding street scene he depicts. Perhaps we can see these dimensions simultaneously, since we look both at and through the screen of trees. Another challenge adeptly met here is to make a predominantly blue winter scene somehow warm and alive. Milne presents a certain saturated lusciousness in the way the apparently wet snow molds itself to the bare branches, the ground, and the roofs of adjacent houses. Rivulets of intense blue in the foreground suggest melting and movement. Small blue shapes are scattered across the image, making puddles of water but also more surface pattern. These forms also double as windows in the background buildings.

Where and when this canvas was painted matters in Milne’s career, though perhaps not so much in our current appreciation of his tremendous abilities. While his reference to New York in his title could refer to the city or the state–he spent many years in both locales–we know that at age twenty-one, Milne left rural Bruce County, Ontario, for NYC to attend the progressive Arts Students’ League (1903-05). He worked in the metropolis until 1916, when he moved to Boston Corners in New York State. Milne joined the Canadian Army in 1917 but returned to the United States after World War I.

Though it is an early work in his long and prolific life as an artist, "Bare Trees in Snow (New York)" demonstrates the cosmopolitan sophistication of handling and conception widely recognized by Milne’s peers in the USA at this time. By 1910, he was exhibiting regularly and was reviewed approvingly in the New York press. As we see in this painting, Milne specialized in urban scenes in the early part of his career, inspired in part by the American Ashcan School (also called ‘The Eight’: Robert Henri, Maurice Prendergast, and William J. Glackens). Milne was a New York artist at this time rather than ‘Canadian’–in the way that we might say that Jean Paul Riopelle was a Parisian artist in the 1950s and 1960s, for example. It was in the big city that Milne learned the modernist tendencies of both American and European Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Fauvism. Most significantly, he exhibited five paintings in North America’s most important and controversial early exhibition of the avant-garde, the Armory Show in 1913. An intensely and sometimes debilitatingly self- critical artist throughout his career, in "Bare Trees in Snow (New York)" Milne shows the confidence that came from his extensive recognition in what was becoming the new centre of modern art.

Mark A. Cheetham has written extensively on Canadian artists, including Jack Chambers, Alex Colville, Robert Houle, and Camille Turner, most recently in the collection "Unsettling Canadian Art History" (2022). He is a freelance writer and curator and a professor of Art History at the University of Toronto.

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.
Sale Date: May 30th 2024

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Cowley Abbott
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

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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.