Artwork by Frederick Horsman Varley,  Summer Day, Don Valley
Thumbnail of Artwork by Frederick Horsman Varley,  Summer Day, Don Valley Thumbnail of Artwork by Frederick Horsman Varley,  Summer Day, Don Valley Thumbnail of Artwork by Frederick Horsman Varley,  Summer Day, Don Valley Thumbnail of Artwork by Frederick Horsman Varley,  Summer Day, Don Valley

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

Lot #1

Fred Varley
Summer Day, Don Valley

oil on panel
Varley Inventory stamp no. 326 on the reverse
9.25 x 12.75 in ( 23.5 x 32.4 cm )

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

Provenance:
Private Collection, Edmonton
Literature:
Peter Varley, "Varley", Toronto, 1983, page 83
"Summer Day, Don Valley" was painted shortly after Frederick Varley settled in Canada. Hailing from Sheffield, England, Varley had been encouraged to seek new opportunities in Canada by his friend and fellow artist Arthur Lismer. Varley found work in Toronto as an illustrator at Grip Limited, alongside Tom Thomson and future Group of Seven members. The artist’s early years in Toronto were primarily focused on his commercial work. Peter Varley notes that following Varley’s move to Thornhill, his weekend painting trips to Toronto’s Don Valley “revitalized his interest in painting, particularly in oil, which allowed more freedom than did watercolours in searching out a landscape’s rhythms and compositional structures.” Varley’s main interest tended to centre on portraiture, and Varley’s small oil sketches at the time often featured figures in the landscape. Despite his experience with commercial work, Varley tended to avoid incorporating stylized, Art-Nouveau influenced graphic motifs in his paintings as his close colleagues had.

"Summer Day, Don Valley" appears to show the artist fully embracing and enjoying the qualities of painting with oils outdoors. A flurry of energetic brushwork fills the pictorial space, amplified by the small scale and dense composition. The vigorous, rapid paint handling has much in common with that of Varley’s close colleague Tom Thomson. Warm pinks and silvery blues convey the direct heat of the summer sun. The vitality of the two young men fishing is depicted with an economy of means. Varley’s mastery of the medium is evident in his rich, confident handling of the subject.
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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Frederick Horsman Varley
(1881 - 1969) Group of Seven, Canadian Group of Painters, ARCA

Born in Sheffield, England, Frederick Varley went to Antwerp as a young man to study art at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts and then returned to London, England to work as an illustrator. In 1912 he came to Toronto, Canada where he formed a friendship with Arthur Lismer. Lismer introduced Varley to fellow artists who spent their weekends painting outside of the city. They tried to convince Varley that the most challenging and inspiring subject matter was the Canadian Landscape. Varley, who was more interested in portraiture, took a while to warm to the lure of the landscape, which he eventually did. His best work, however, continued to be his portrait and figure work into which he incorporated the landscape.

In 1926 he accepted a teaching position at the Vancouver School of Art and stayed in British Columbia until 1936 when he returned to Eastern Canada to continue his career as an artist with some teaching to help his finances. Varley was an avid reader of philosophy, in particular the writings of Chinese writers. These writings, along with his own observations, influenced his approach to colour and subject matter. He felt "colour vibrations", as he expressed it, "emanating from the object portrayed". His personal use of colour became a trademark of his paintings and one that is still used by so many artists today, such was the lasting influence of his work.