Published: August 27, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Laura Beach, Additional Photos Courtesy of Crowther & Brayley
CHESTER, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA – Roughly the same size as the United States but with only 11 percent of its population, Canada, by definition, has smaller markets than its southern neighbor. For Americans discovering Canadian art, this tends to translate into attractive prices. With the US dollar currently worth $1.32 north of the border, buying opportunities are enhanced.
One place to put the American dollar to the test is at Crowther & Brayley’s annual August sale in the old-time resort town of Chester, on Nova Scotia’s south shore. Though not as well-known as, say, the Hamptons or Muskoka, the capital of Ontario’s affluent “cottage country,” Chester nevertheless draws wealthy summer visitors from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Boston and beyond.
Crowther & Brayley staged its 27th Chester auction on August 3 at its traditional home, a commodious hockey rink on Pig Loop Road. Bill Brayley still runs an old-fashioned sale that packs the hall. There is no buyer’s premium, also no online bidding, though the auctioneer does execute phone and left bids.
The eclectic sale featured fine and decorative arts of Canadian and international interest, with the highest bids going for Modern and contemporary Canadian painting. The leader in that group was “Lake La Peche,” 1952, a signed and titled oil on canvas by Canadian Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson. It sold to a collector for $19,164. Accompanied by a handwritten note, the painting had been presented by Casson to the president of the University of Guelph in Ontario. “It’s the first time it was on the market,” Brayley said.
“Surf, Peggy’s Cove,” an early work by Nova Scotia painter Alex Colville, achieved $9,770. Particularly in the artist’s treatment of the cove and rocks, Brayley saw in the small oil on board the influence of Colville’s teacher, Stanley Royle (1888-1961), represented this round by a seascape that brought $1,803.
Paintings by the Quebec Expressionist painter Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002) have sold at auction for as much as $5.7 million. Unfolded and framed, an envelope decorated by the artist brought $9,017 in this setting.
One of the best-known living artists with ties to Atlantic Canada are David Blackwood, whose powerful works on paper summon the spirit of his native Newfoundland. Blackwood’s 1985 print “L’Anse aux Meadows” achieved $1,576.
Leading several watercolors by Nova Scotian Tom De Vany Forrestall was “Blue Truck and Steel Fence,” $2,254. Forrestall’s most admired works are meticulous egg tempera paintings on shaped canvases or panels.
Another contemporary artist with a lively following is French-born Newfoundlander Jean Claude Roy. A Newfoundland view by the colorist left the room at $4,508, a house record.
The estate of a local woman who spent part of her life in Nantucket supplied one of the auction’s most aggressively bid lots. As Brayley studied the 12-by-16-inch depiction of a seaside village by the American painter Frank Chase Swift, he became convinced that the view depicted Nantucket. Brayley’s intuition appears to have been correct. The painting by the so-called “dean of the Nantucket art colony” shot up to $6,762.
“Late in the game, we were pretty sure it was Nantucket. We advertised it and it got a good response,” Brayley explained.
In the marine category, Franklin J. Wright’s portrait of the ship County of Yarmouth left the room at $7,890. “The fellow who consigned it was a lawyer, who said the painting represented a month’s salary when he acquired it long ago. It resold to another lawyer who had also admired it years ago. Franklin had a very successful career painting Canadian vessels,” Brayley noted.
Made in the Maritimes, a circa 1820 regency mahogany drop leaf dining table with handsome ring turnings surged to $5,260. “It could easily have been made in Halifax and had a history in Liverpool, N.S.,” Brayley said of the piece in fine condition.
Outstanding in its folk appeal, a country wing chair with caned back, seat and wings was a good buy at $300.
Several items came with BADA stickers, a nod to England’s close ties with its former colony and the sway the British Antiques Dealers Association still enjoys here.
Crowther & Brayley is a source for art pottery, much of it made in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. Offerings ranged from midcentury pieces by Deichmann and Lorenzen to a contemporary box by Alexandra McCurdy, RCA, a Nova Scotia College of Art and Design-trained ceramist inspired by Native basketry. Figural mushrooms by Ernest and Alma Lorenzen also did well.
Silver and Jewelry
Diamonds are an auctioneer’s best friend, or so it seemed when a woman’s ring composed of a 2.87-carat diamond flanked by baguette diamonds set in 14K white gold shot up to $13,527. Brayley dispatched a lady’s platinum ring set with two old European cut diamonds for $3,382 and a man’s Rolex watch for 3,156. A Gorham silver bowl brought up the rear at $676, while a tray by Charles Clement Pilling of Sibray Hall & Co. made $2,254.
“We had three muskets,” said Brayley. “The first one was a George III militia Tower musket from Lunenburg County, N.S. I’ve only seen one before. We offered it 20 years ago. We also had a Tower 1742 Brown Bess flintlock musket and a Princess Louise Battalion Halifax Garrison 1861 Enfield musket that most likely saw service during the 1885 Northwest Rebellion.” Brayley added that he was delighted by the performance of these antique firearms.
He concluded, “Overall, the artwork was firm, the jewelry was well received, and furniture and silver did better than expected.” What does Brayley seek in consignments? “Artwork, quirky items. And I love good Oriental rugs,” said the auctioneer, whose next sale, as yet unscheduled, will most likely be in October or November.
Prices have been converted from Canadian dollars to US dollars at press time.
Headquarters for Crowther & Brayley Ltd, is Waverly, N.S., a suburb of Halifax. For information, www.crowther-brayley.com or 902-860-0111.
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