Canadian Fine Art

Auction begins to close:
June 03, 2021 at 8:00 pm ET

Online Auction
LOT 34

Lot 34


Lot 34 Details


oil on canvas
signed and dated; dated "1907" and inscribed "No. 4" on the reverse
13.74 ins x 18 ins; 34.9 cms x 45.7 cms

Estimate $40,000-$60,000

Realised: $78,000
Price Includes Buyer's Premium ?

Lot Report

Additional Images

Private Collection, Austria


Beach Scene, St. Malo is an early gem by Gagnon that sparkles with his influences and achievements up to 1907, and flashes to his later career-defining views of rural Quebec. Three years before, in 1904, a 23-year-old Gagnon left Canada for his first study trip to Europe. Having trained in Montreal under Edmond Dyonet and William Brymner, his precocity needed a bigger opportunity, and Paris was the place. Gagnon developed steadily there and, after three years of effort, his artistry vaulted in Saint-Malo in the summer of 1907.

Snug against the bottom of the picture plane, three women are atop a rocky outcropping overlooking a bay on a blustery summer day in Brittany. Turquoise water separates them from Saint-Malo as boats in full sail head toward the English Channel. Along the horizon are Grand-Bé on the left and Saint-Malo in centre identifiable by the spire of its Cathédrale Saint-Vincent, and its jetty, Môle des Noires, terminated by its lighthouse.

The standing figure is likely Katherine Irwin, whom Gagnon married in December 1907. This is supported by his multiple studies of her around this time, and the recurrence of figures in the same apparel in contemporary Brittany paintings. One example being the woman in an identical white outfit and hat with turquoise ribbon seated in the foreground of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’, The Beach at Dinard, and another being two of the women seated at bottom left in the Musée national des beaux-art du Québec’s Summer Breeze at Dinard with duplicate outfits and parasol as this painting.

Beach Scene, St. Malo is one of a small group of exploratory beach scenes on size-8 canvases, smaller than the above works. Gagnon’s canvas for Beach Scene, St. Malo came from Lefranc et Cie., the same Paris colour merchant patronized by Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, and Georges Braque. Another Gagnon canvas of the same size in a private collection suggests a painting place near the same cliffs in different weather and with a distinct pastel palette akin to some of Claude Monet’s paintings of Brittany and Normandy. A third, Rocks, St. Briac, Brittany, is an expressive view of rocks being beaten by sea and storm. Now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, it was boldly acquired from the 1909 Ontario Society of Artists exhibition by Canada’s foremost print connoisseur, collector of Gagnon’s prints, and driving force behind the establishment of the Art Museum of Toronto (now, Art Gallery of Ontario) and Royal Ontario Museum, Sir Edmund Walker.

In Beach Scene, St. Malo, Gagnon captured the contrast of the cool turquoise waters of the English Channel in a deft mix of cobalt blue and Naples yellow, with the sun-soaked rocks in Naples yellow and red ochre. As if channeling Eugène Boudin or Édouard Manet, Beach Scene, St. Malo manifests the humanity, light and movement beloved in Impressionist painting that would continue to underpin Gagnon’s painted œuvre in Canada, in Charlevoix and the Laurentians.

Gregory Humeniuk is an independent art historian, writer and curator who has researched and published aspects of Canadian and international art from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, as well as cultural policy and governance. Through fifteen years at the Art Gallery of Ontario he dealt with Canadian and European historical, modern, and contemporary art. We thank him for contributing this essay


The work is in good condition with minor condition issues. Please contact us for a detailed condition report.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated government restrictions, Waddington’s regrets that we are unable to make lots from this auction available for pre-auction, in-person inspection. This condition report has been prepared by Waddington’s as a courtesy and has been provided for guidance only. The Lot is offered in the condition it is in at the time of sale. Any reference to condition in the report for the Lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the Lot form part of the condition report for the Lot provided by Waddington’s. Please note, certain images of the Lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the Lot and may represent colours and shades which are different to the Lot’s actual colour and shades. Waddington’s specialists are not professional conservators or restorers and the report set forth is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Waddington’s. Prospective buyers should bear in mind that this report will not disclose any imperfections which may only be revealed during the course of subsequent restoration. Buyers are reminded that Waddington’s warranties with respect to any property are limited as set forth in the Conditions of Sale and do not extend to condition.

LOT 34

About Condition Ratings

  • 5 Stars: Excellent - No discernable damage, flaws or imperfections
  • 4 Stars: Very Good - Minor flaws or imperfections visible only under close inspection using specialised instruments or black light
  • 3 Stars: Good - Minor flaws visible upon inspection under standard lighting
  • 2 Stars: Fair - Exhibits flaws or damage that may draw the eye under standard lighting
  • 1 Star: Poor - Flaws or damage immediately apparent under standard lighting (examples: missing components, rips, broken glass, damaged surfaces, etc.)

Note: Condition ratings and condition details are the subjective opinions of our specialists and should be used as a guide only. Waddington’s uses due care when preparing condition details, however, our staff are not professional restorers or conservators. Condition details and reports are not warranties and each lot is sold “as is” in accordance with the buyer’s terms and conditions of sale. In all cases the prospective purchaser is responsible for inspecting the property themselves prior to placing a bid.