Michael Parke-Taylor on “Cap Tourmente, Quebec” by Bertram Brooker

By: Michael Parke-Taylor

Lot 30 – Bertram Brooker, RCA (1888-1955), CAP TOURMENTE, QUEBEC, 1946. Oil on paperboard; signed lower left; titled and dated verso; also titled to gallery labels verso. 11.375 x 15 in — 29.2 x 38.1 cm. Estimate $9,000-$12,000

Cap Tourmente is located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River about 50 kilometres east of Quebec City. A mid-19th century chronicler of life in Canada, John J. Bigsby, recorded in The Shoe and Canoe, or Pictures of Travel in The Canadas: “There are few objects in Lower Canada better known, and perhaps more carefully avoided, than the great headland of Cape Tourment, nineteen hundred feet high. It is the advanced portion of a great group of mountains, occupying a lofty inner country, untravelled, save by a few Indians.”[1] By the end of the 19th century, the profile of the mountainous Cap Tourmente was a familiar sight to artists on the Île d’Orléans looking north across the expanse of the St. Lawrence River.

The Île d’Orléans was a mecca for Canadian artists shortly after the turn of the century. Notably, Horatio Walker (1858-1938), who owned a residence there, inspired fellow painters William Brymner, Edmond Dyonnet, Maurice Cullen, William Cruikshank, James W. Morrice, Curtis Williamson and Edmund Morris to paint near the Pointe d’Argentenay on the north end of the island. By the time Bertram Brooker first visited the Île d’Orléans during the summer of 1941, he had been preceded by a host of other Canadian artistic luminaries such as Clarence Gagnon, A.Y. Jackson, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Edwin Holgate, Helen McNicoll, Charles Huot and Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté.

Brooker’s summer holiday in rural Quebec in 1941 offered an opportunity for rest and reflection. He stayed in a “backward old village” while painting a vast panorama of farm country stretching north to the Laurentian Shield (North Shore, 1941, Private Collection). Surrounded by images of picturesque Quebec and the various parish villages on the Île d’Orléans, Brooker came to the realisation that true inspiration comes directly from emotion rather than intellect. As he later wrote to LeMoine FitzGerald (June 25, 1942), his vacation on the Île d’Orléans, where he interacted with down-to-earth local types, led him to consider the “matter of feeling – an apprehension of simplicity and beauty, instead of mere thinking or theorising about it.”

Buoyed by this experience, Brooker revisited the Île d’Orléans during the summer of 1946 where he depicted vernacular French colonial régime facades and ornate interiors of several parish churches. In the charming landscape Cap Tourmente, Quebec, 1946, painted from the Île d’Orléans, he chose a vantage point reminiscent of a 1903 painting by Edmund Morris (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa). Brooker took artistic licence to draw Cap Tourmente closer to the viewer. The mountain and clouds dominate the composition while the grand St. Lawrence River is reduced to a minor waterway. Brooker captures the tranquillity of this traditional Quebec scene, a civilised landscape with a tilled field, log fences and farmhouse.


Michael Parke-Taylor is a Canadian art historian, curator, and author of Bertram Brooker: When We Awake! (McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 2024) and editor of Some Magnetic Force: Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald Writings (Concordia University Press, 2023).

About the auction

Held online from May 24-29, 2024, our spring auction of Canadian and International Fine Art brings together exceptional work from around the world. This auction features celebrated Canadian artists such as Cornelius Krieghoff, A.Y. Jackson, P.C. Sheppard, A.J. Casson, Bertram Booker, Alexandra Luke, Jean Paul Lemieux and Yves Gaucher as well as important First Nations artists Norval Morrisseau, Roy Thomas and Alex Janvier. International highlights include work by Jules Olitski, Karel Appel, Kwon Young-Woo, Norman Bluhm, Józef Bakoś, Léon Lhermitte and Montague Dawson.

Previews will be available at our Toronto gallery, located at 275 King Street East, Second Floor, Toronto:

 Thursday, May 23 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
 Friday, May 24 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
 Saturday, May 25 from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm
 Sunday, May 26 from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm
 Monday, May 27 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
 Tuesday, May 28 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Or by appointment.

Please contact us to find out more.

[1] John J. Bigsby, The Shoe and Canoe, or Pictures of Travel in The Canadas (London: Chapman and Hall, 1850), Volume 1, 180.

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