March 27 — April 01, 2021
Auction begins to close at 2 pm ET
PHILIP HENRY HOWARD SURREY, R.C.A.
Gauvreau Gallery, Montreal
Private Collection, Ontario
Of Philip Surrey’s work, Robert Ayre wrote in 1940 that it evoked “the loneliness and secrecy of the night, created by still, poised compositions, by sombre colours, by mysterious shadows and, here and there, an eerie light…There is a story in most of Surrey’s paintings: not an anecdote made obvious but a story implied for your own imagination to complete.”
Indeed, a painting that appears simple at first glance slowly reveals itself to be the intersection of three vignettes: the couple on promenade, a boater on the river, and a car looping around the bend on the road, visible only by its lights. Surrey guides the viewer through the scene masterfully, coaxing the eye around the canvas using the curves of the low-slung telephone wire, the mirrored sweep of the road and the backhand arc of the trees. The effect is cinematic, simultaneously serene and unsettling, in the way of a David Lynch film. The composition functions as a painterly choose-your-own-adventure story, with the viewer left to contemplate the anterior and posterior of this moment in time.
The pivotal moment takes place almost offstage, in the form of the approaching vehicle. Surrey frequently returned to the car as a subject; Gilles Daigneault wrote of Surrey that "...there is one thing that occupies a special place in the artist's imagination and which he often uses to express what he resents most: the automobile." Indeed, in this painting it is the car that will interrupt and perhaps even threaten the couple’s bucolic stroll.
The painting takes its title from a street of the same name, the longest on the Island of Montreal. Gouin wraps around the north side of the island, bordering the Riviere des Prairies.