“Dominique La Plante, Thunder Cloud” by Peter Clapham Sheppard

By: Gregory Humeniuk

Lot 17 – Peter Clapham Sheppard, OSA, RCA (1879-1965),
DOMINIQUE LA PLANTE, THUNDER CLOUD, 1914. Oil on canvas; signed and dated lower left; P.C. Sheppard Collection inv. no. LG068. 24.25 x 30 in — 61.6 x 76.2 cm. Estimate $20,000-$30,000

Peter Clapham Sheppard’s portrait Dominique La Plante, Thunder Cloud marks his early accomplishment and ambition. It appears to have been exhibited when Sheppard was still a student at the Ontario College of Art and not long after a writer for The Globe (Toronto) described it as “splendidly done,” when they saw it at OCA’s annual exhibition of student work.[1] Seven years later it was included in a group exhibition at The Heliconian Club in Toronto that included his OCA classmate Frederick Loveroff, the review of which The Globe’s writer remarked the “regal, red-blanketed Indian is an outstanding example” of Sheppard’s subjects from humanity.[2]

Still a student and in his mid-20s, Sheppard met a model who had worked in the United States for Eulabee Dix, as well as Frederick Remington and John Singer Sargent.[3] When La Plante visited Toronto in April 1913 and was painted by Sheppard, he was also photographed by M.O. Hammond at the request of future Group of Seven member Franz Johnston and for Hammond’s own work.[4] He also modelled for Emanuel Hahn, Thunder Cloud and Indian Scout, both from 1913 and in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada.[5]

Like Sheppard’s two other known studies of La Plante, (Dominique La Plante, Thundercloud, 1912-1914, pastel on paper, 73 x 45.7 cm and a painting reproduced in The Toronto Sunday World in 1923), this painting is much more accomplished and attentive than a classroom exercise.[6] A young artist at the outset of his career, Sheppard’s portrayal of the nearly 60-year-old La Plante captures the physiognomy and dignity of his sitter and evokes the viewer’s empathy. Painted on a dark ground, in the tradition of the great 17th century portraitists Anthony van Dyck, Diego Velázquez and closer to Sheppard’s own time, John Singer Sargent, with bold brushstrokes that sculpt La Plante’s features more than they paint them, it is no surprise this painting was noticed early on. With a rare maturity that augured his singular artistic development and achievement, Sheppard made the most of the fewest brushstrokes to portray a figure who had been rendered by older, more experienced and more famous artists.

About the auction

Held online from May 24-29, our spring 2024 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.

View the gallery and browse the downloadable digital catalogue.

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] “Art Students’ Work Shows Much Merit,” The Globe, 17 May 1913, 8.
[2] “Art and Artists,” The Globe, 17 Jan 1920, 10.
[3] “Chief Thundercloud Dies,” The New York Times, 14 Mar 1916, 11.
[4] Janet Dewan, “The Mourner: ‘Red Man’s Memories,’” The History of Photography, vol. 15, no. 2, 137.
[5] Emanuel Hahn, Indian Scout, 1913, bronze, 85.5 x 27.8 x 42.2 cm, National Gallery of Canada, Purchased 1917, acc. no. 1429; and Thunder Cloud, 1913, bronze, 47.8 x 29 x 26.6 cm, National Gallery of Canada, Purchased 1929, acc. no. 3685.
[6] An Artist’s Model, “The Life Of An Artists [sic] Model Is Not An Easy One,” The Toronto Sunday World, 3 Jun 1923, 5.

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