“The Ideal Crêpes” by Tony Scherman

By: Ihor Holubizky

Lot 7 – Tony Scherman, RCA (1950-2023), THE IDEAL CRÊPES FROM “THE COMFORT OF FOOD SERIES,” 1987. Encaustic, oil stick and pastel on canvas signed, titled, and dated to the overflap. 60 x 72 in — 152.4 x 182.9 cm. Estimate $15,000-$20,000

In the decade after graduating from the Royal College of Art, London in 1974, Tony Scherman established and continued to develop his distinct approach to painting with the encaustic medium; still life subjects of food, pottery, and furniture.[1] While he demonstrated a strong aptitude for life drawing – self-portraits and studio models in his 1970 College entrance portfolio – Scherman did not incorporate figures into his paintings until 1983-84, and first shown at the Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto in 1984.[2] It included the reviewed and “notorious” “Claudia at Maxim’s.”[3]

By 1986, his figures took on a distinct and refined dimension, exemplified by The Ideal Crêpes. The standing figure is a notational drawing done with black oil stick (or pastel) on an ochre-encaustic ground. The face, hat and kerchief of the chef are amplified by encaustic ‘naturalism.’ The crêpe is caught in motion (as crêpes are made one at a time) – the making being performed and registered in a dynamic way. Perhaps this is a “nod” to the futurism in Giacomo Balla’s 1912 painting Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash.

The Ideal Crêpes was shown in his first theme titled exhibition The Comfort of Food. Food can provide comfort for distress or anxiety, but Scherman also used food to reveal underlying and discreet social interactions.

This painting is (likely) the first of three versions done in 1987. The Ideal Crêpe II is on a yellow encaustic ground (Private Collection, USA).[4] The other is on a red encaustic ground, whereabouts unknown. This body of work culminated in the 152 x 518 cm triptych – The Comfort of Food, 1987 – commissioned for the Chicago/Oakbrook cinemas.[5] Food, and figure/portraiture continued as a key subject matter in Scherman’s later metatextual series such as About 1789About 1865, and Pictures from Rome.

Ihor Holubizky is a cultural essayist and art historian. He received his PhD in art history from the University of Queensland.

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] https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-kitchen-64082
[2] One of the early figure paintings is Portrait of Kirkman, 1983-84, collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery.
[3] Christopher Hume, Scherman show repels and fascinates, Toronto Star, 18 November 1984.
[4] The work illustrated for the 1988 Mayor Gallery invitation is titled The Ideal Beef.
[5] David Burnett, Cineplex Odeon, The First Ten Years, 1989, illustrated 86-87.

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