Two Paintings by A.J. Casson

By: Greg Humeniuk

Held online from May 24-29, 2024, our spring auction of Canadian and International Fine Art brings together exceptional work from around the world, including two paintings by A.J. Casson.

Lot 28 – Alfred Joseph (A.J.) Casson, OSA, PRCA (1898-1992), SUN AFTER RAIN, 1959. Oil on linen; signed lower right; titled variously and dated to gallery labels verso. 30 x 38 in — 76.2 x 96.5 cm. Estimate $80,000-$120,000


A.J. Casson retired in 1958 after a 45-year career in commercial art. During his commercial life he was respected for his perfectionism and his refined understanding of colour and linear design. In his new career as an artist, Casson pushed these effects to heights and achievements unparalleled by the Group of Seven and distinct in Canadian landscape painting with Sun After Rain.

Casson’s masterful control of his palette and chromatic values enabled him to convey the scene with stunning effect. As the rain moves from right to left across the valley to the hills in the distance, sunlight traces the edges of clouds with a brilliant white, slightly infused with pale blue. Casson obscures the sun behind the cloud and engages us with multiple light effects. The rocky crest of a hill picketed with trees in their summer foliage, establishes our point of view.

Directly above, a heavy, dark cloud refracts the light of the sun behind it. Below, the afternoon sky is still moist and Casson plays vaporous effects off the slopes of the distant hills. Each is slightly different according to distance, ambient light and temperature. Between the foreground and the hills, the expansive plain is divided by a meandering river. It announces the distance between our place in the foreground and the hills kilometres away.

Sun After Rain was reproduced in Pearl McCarthy’s review of Casson’s first solo exhibition at Roberts Gallery, Toronto, March 1959. Their relationship pre-dated that exhibition and continued until Casson’s death, with many solo and group exhibitions in between. In addition to his perfectionism and acute sense of design, Casson possessed an exemplary work ethic, embodying the dictum, “nulla dies sine linea” (never a day without line).


Lot 29 – Alfred Joseph (A.J.) Casson, OSA, PRCA (1898-1992),
KINTAIL #2, 1968. Oil on paperboard; signed lower right; signed, titled, and dated verso. 9.75 x 11.25 in — 24.8 x 28.6 cm. Estimate $20,000-$30,000

KINTAIL #2, 1968

In the 1960s, in his early 60s, Casson propelled his interest in the Ontario landscape and its small settlements to a new level of artistic maturity. Casson’s work ethic and standards even accompanied him on a 1968 family vacation to Kincardine, Ontario – a little less than 200 kilometres west-northwest of Toronto on the shore of Lake Huron. Not content to be idle, and finding relaxation in his vocation, Casson sought subjects for painting in the vicinity and took up one of his best known and loved motifs in the small settlement of Kintail, thirty kilometres south of Kincardine.

The palette of Kintail #2 is akin to Sun After Rain, lot 28, but distinct for practical reasons. A smaller repertoire of greens, blues, browns and white are all Casson needed to capture this storefront in a disappearing part of regional economies. The ground Casson prepared for Kintail #2 is more than a painted support for his design. His broadly brushed off-white ground has two important functions: one is technical and the other is aesthetic. The technical purpose was to provide a texture that gripped his brush and the thin layers of paint he applied to create the gentlest impediment to slick painting. The aesthetic purpose is to provide a texture that grips the eye. As Claude Monet knew before him, texture under brushstrokes adds visual interest and keeps eyes lingering. Coupled with his refined palette, the refined geometric of Casson’s composition gently holds our attention as sequences of rectangles open, nestle and envelope each other, constantly engaging our eyes.

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.

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