2020 in Review: Canadian Art

By: Waddington's Staff

William Perehudoff, R.C.A. Nanai, No. 4, 1969.  Acrylic on canvas signed, titled, and dated on the reverse. 50 ins x 55 ins; 127 cms x 139.7 cms. 

Even with a pandemic and the challenges that came with it, we were delighted with the many special artworks that continued to pass through our doors in 2020. We would like to extend our sincerest thank you to everyone who helped make this year as smooth and successful as possible, and for your patience and understanding in this most uncertain time. 

As a company we were able to bring a total of 84 auctions to the market (34 auctions offered by the Fine Art Division alone) despite not being able to conduct business in the usual manner. But you, our clients, pivoted as quickly and as often as we did, and together we adapted to the virtual art auction world.

some highlights of this year’s canadian art auctions

February 2020 would mark the last pre-COVID auction period for Waddington’s. From then on, the shifting levels of lockdown in Toronto meant that we had to be nimble in finding ways for clients to access the items in our auctions, particularly when we were not allowed to provide in-person viewings and previews. However, our strength would lie in our online auction platform, on which we have been offering major auctions for 13 years.

We didn’t realize that our February Canadian Art Select auction would be the final time in 2020 that we could welcome everyone to the gallery for our public previews, and in many cases would be the last time we would see you in person! The auction included a strong showing by Winter Woods #11 by Gordon Appelbe Smith, whose passing in January was a huge loss to the Canadian art world. We were also honoured to offer superb colour woodcuts by Walter J. Phillips from the collection of Frederick H. Brigden – The Bather and The Diving Board.

Our next thoughts turned to our major Spring auctions of Canadian and Inuit art, historically conducted as live auctions. In consultation with our consignors and prospective buyers we made the decision to postpone, hoping the environment would allow for live auctions, and in-person previews.

In June, we offered our Canadian Art Select auction online, with highlights including the massive quadriptych Sally’s Fright by William Ronald and a rare and colourful untitled collage by Jack Bush

In September, Toronto remained under tight restrictions. Our Canadian Fine Art auction was transformed into an online/live auction broadcast, with only a few core staff members in attendance to handle the phone bids and technical aspects. In order to help illustrate the works on offer, our creative department launched an enhanced digital catalogue format, designed for those unable to view the work in person, with in situ images and essays to give the best sense of the artworks on offer. 

Kent Monkman, Fort Edmonton, 2003.
Acrylic on canvas, 24 ins x 36 ins; 61 cms x 91.4 cms

This auction featured several works from an important collection from Alberta, as well as two early oil paintings by legendary Canadian Artist Tom Thomson (A Quiet Summer Evening and Late Spring) and a canvas by Kent Monkman, Fort Edmonton. At one point in that evening’s broadcast, 16 clients on the phone competed to bid on Nanai, No. 4 by William Perehudoff and we were very excited to see the lot sell for more than quadruple its high estimate.

The auction was a success, with 83% of all lots in the auction sold, for a total price realised of $2.1 million. To view the full results, please visit the prices realised for this auction.

Later in the fall, we presented a handful of tightly curated auctions, including The Canadian Salon, an auction of Indigenous Art and The Wild and Wonderful World of Richard LaPrairie, which was held in conjunction with our Decorative Arts & Design department. 

Capping off the year was our December auction of Canadian Art. Again, the pandemic influenced our decision to hold the auction online. Another digital catalogue was created, and our specialists hosted a virtual preview via Zoom to discuss some of the standout lots and hidden gems in the auction, and answer any of your questions. More than 95% of the artworks offered in this auction were sold – what we understand to be the highest level of sell-through for any Canadian Art auction in recent years. This is a wonderful indicator for a robust future for the Canadian art market and an important consideration for anyone interested in consigning work to auction.

Highlights of the auction included a rare canvas by George Pepper, Boathouses on the Ottawa River, a large and important painting by Alexandra Luke, two beautiful late 1950s paintings by Walter Yarwood (Landscape and Nightscape), a new record set for a landscape painting by P.C. Sheppard as well as a renewed interest in the skillful work of Stanley Francis Turner (Heavy Snow and Timber Line).

George Douglas Pepper, O.S.A., R.C.A. Boathouses on the Ottawa River, 1930. Oil on canvas signed and dated ’30 28 ins x 36 ins; 71.1 cms x 91.4 cms.

Forward thinking….

We couldn’t be more grateful for the patience, trust and enthusiasm we experienced from our clients this year and we sincerely look forward to building on our success in 2021. We hope you’ll join us!

If you’re considering selling your Canadian Art, please get in touch with us by email at [email protected] or by telephone at 416-504-9100. If you’re looking to acquire something new, we are also more than happy to speak with you about Canadian Art and our upcoming auctions.

Please note the consignment deadlines for our February Canadian Art auction (deadline January 22) and our March Women in Art auction (deadline February 5).

Learn more:

Interested in learning more about Canadian Art? We consistently update our blog with articles about Canadian Art and artists, as well as interesting works you might enjoy reading about from other departments.

For example, in 2020, we wrote about the brilliance of Mary Pratt, abstract art by Gershon Iskowitz, Jack Bush and William Ronald, the genius of David Milne, Canadian Impressionists Helen McNicoll & Laura Muntz, historical watercolours by William Hind (and his expedition up the Moisie River in Quebec in 1861), an interview with Dr. Sarah Stanners on building Jack Bush’s catalogue raisonné, five 20th century Canadian artists that we think you should know, and a little more about Rita Letendre’s luminous abstractions. We hope you’ll follow along in 2021!

Please note that our offices are closed for the holiday break, from December 21 to January 5.


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