L'importance des grandes firmes internationales de commissaires-priseurs dans des villes comme Paris, Londres, New York, et leur incidence sur le marché de l'art sont des faits connus. Mais qu'en était-il de la vente aux enchères d'œuvres d'art dans un contexte colonial et, plus près de nous, dans un centre de l'envergure de Montréal, au XIXe siècle? C'est la question qui s'est imposée lors de la synthèse du matériel recueilli dans le cadre ma recherche doctorale sur l'essor du commerce d'art à Montréal, entre 1859 et 1914, à partir du cas de figure de W. Scott & Sons. Dans l'étude qui suit, j'entends démontrer que la vente publique a été le mode dominant de diffusion de l'œuvre d'art à Montréal jusqu'à la fin des années 1880. Pour ce faire, j'examinerai la place qui fut dévolue à l'encan public dans les méthodes commerciales du marchand William Scott (1831–1904). J'interrogerai ensuite les causes historiques de la prédominance de ce mode diffusion dans l'ensemble du marché de l'art à Montréal jusque dans les années 1860, de même que les motifs de son déclin à partir du début des années 1890. Tout au long de cette démonstration, je m'en remettrai aux données compilées lors du dépouillement de la Montreal Gazette et d'autres journaux montréalais de la période étudiée.
The Role of Public Sales in the Rapidly Developing Montreal Art Market from 1869 to 1900
The Case of W. Scott & Sons
Until the 1880s, the public auction was the primary method of selling artworks in Montreal. By the mid 1870s, however, the auctioneer's control of the art market had become increasingly contested by a different type of merchant who had been dealing in pictures for some time. After the 1760 Conquest, carvers and gilders, working as craftsmen and picture-framers on the free market also sold engravings and cabinet pictures. William Scott (1831–1904), was one of these carver-gilders. He had arrived in Montreal from Britain in 1859 and soon began competing with auctioneers. In 1862, Scott's firm organized its first-known public sale of mirrors and prints at the Mechanics' Institute on Great St. James Street, a few blocks away from his own premises on Victoria Square, in the heart of Montreal's business district. Within two decades, Scott moved from being a picture framer to an art dealer, selling decorative art and furniture along with paintings and prints and thereby occupying a unique position in Montreal. From 1875 to 1887, he organized large annual public sales, consisting mainly of paintings and watercolours by contemporary European artists. He imported pictures directly from France and England, and thus bypassed the agents and importers who usually controlled access to the Montreal market. Scott himself evaluated the quality of the works he would promote as his clients preferred more select objects than those found in the regular sales of imported art. The paintings he typically judged of "superior quality" were academic paintings that had gained recognition at the Paris Salons.
Seventy years ago, an editorial in the 20 February 1932 issue of the Saint John, New Bunswick The Telegraph-Journal reflected upon the relative lack of appreciation for the "genius" of Florence Ayscough among "her own countrymen in New Brunswick." Noting that she had recently been described in the New York Herald-Tribune as "the quintessence, the finest flowering of the Old China Hand," the Canadian writer promised Ayscough a rosier future in the province: "all things come to those who wait — and read — and the full flowering of her acclaim will be the Indian summer of the next generation."
You know how it is. You get a feeling about a certain place. You can't exactly explain the way you feel except to say, "this place is different from any place on earth," or "there's a spell over this country," or "it's a mighty mysterious bit o' the land." You can't exactly put it into words, but you'd like to, and you'd like to be able to command a muse, or spirit, or some sort of supernatural being to help you do it. That's the way I happened to meet Johnny Chinook. I wished for him and there he was.
– Robert E. Gard (1945)
André Breton avait certainement eu, au moins pour un moment, le sentiment d'avoir trouvé le mot juste quand il avait traité Riopelle de «trappeur supérieur» dans un fameux Aparté, qu'Elisa Breton, Benjamin Péret et lui-même avaient commis pour servir de préface à la première exposition solo de Riopelle à la Galerie Nina Dausset à Paris, du 23 mars au 23 avril 1949- Puis il s'était ravisé. Qui dit «trappeur» dit «piège», idée «que j'aime modérément», s'était-il dit, mais comme ces pièges étaient aussi «des pièges pour des pièges» et qu'«une fois ces pièges piégés, un haut degré de liberté est atteint», il s'était réconcilié avec l'idée. Georges Duthuit retiendra cette expression à son tour et imaginera Riopelle comme «un trappeur surgi au pas de course des solitudes canadiennes pour retomber sur nos pavés».
Riopelle, Heidegger and the Animal
This article takes a Heideggerian approach to Riopelle's later work where his use of animal iconography is particularly developed. The analytical process can begin with the artist's frequent declarations about his particular interest in hunting. According to Riopelle, the hunter actually aims to become the animal and to use those signals that can trigger animal behavior. An example of this is well illustrated by techniques of moose and goose hunting when hunters must accurately imitate animal sounds to attract their prey. Jacob Von Uexkül, the renowned German zoologist, provides an interpretation of this phenomena. Understanding that the animal's world consists exclusively of bedunträger or signals that are necessary for its survival (ethnologists call these releasers), the successful hunter is one who is able to perfectly imitate these signals in order attract the animal to close range.
Although photographic albums are common objects, the meaning of their contents often remains mysterious to those who have not heard the reasons behind the choice and placement of imagery that fills their pages. Albums housed in modern archives or museums are especially challenging to researchers. Because the photographic album is a visual object, it affords little in terms of written information. Traditional methods of biographical research yield scant clues, if any, to the identity of the assembler or the persons depicted in the photographs. Even when individuals can be identified, their connection to those who surround them often remains enigmatic. The historic album places the researcher in the position of an outsider who must be resigned to the fact that certain elements cannot be explained. Given the high degree of intentionality of most albums, it is obvious that their assemblers wished to communicate very specific ideas about family, friends and acquaintances through their choice and arrangement of elements. The question remains as how to make the album "speak" to modem viewers who have little knowledge of the persons depicted, but recognize the care and consideration exercised in the assembly of its contents.
Over the past few years, the Library and Archives at the National Gallery of Canada has published a number of reference works as part of its ongoing mission to "develop and disseminate tools (finding aids, bibliographies, indexes and other documentation) to assist researchers." In addition to the four resources published in the bilingual Occasional Papers Series, the Library and Archives has also produced a series of exhibition brochures in conjunction with their regularly scheduled presentations of books and other materials.
Artists in Canada: a Union List of Artists' Files has served as a primary tool for research on Canadian artists since it first appeared in 1977. Some may be surprised at the decision to produce a print edition given the availability of an online version since 1995; however, as Pierre Théberge, Director of the National Gallery points out in the introduction to this 1999 update, the paper edition was published "at the demand of researchers, collectors and artists." Recipient of the 1999 Melva Dwyer Award as the outstanding Canadian art reference book of the year, this publication is an authoritative, comprehensive listing of over 42,700 artists born in Canada or who have worked in Canada. The main purpose of this tool is to provide information about artist files held in the National Gallery of Canada Library and/or one of the twenty-two participating libraries or archives from across the country. Preceding the main listing of artists, a brief introductory essay prepared by Cyndie Campbell, Head of Archives, Documentation and Visual Resources, traces the evolution of this tool over the past twenty-five years. Also included are a brief outline of the purpose and scope, the criteria used for inclusion of artists, and the types of information potentially available in the artist s files at the various institutions. The essay is followed by a list of contributing library and archive sites. The list of artists is organized alphabetically, and each entry provides information, where available, about birth and death dates, the artist's medium(s), and the names of libraries and archives owning an artist's file. As the voluminous paper edition does not include indexes by geography, medium, gender or time periods, many will turn to the online version. Its sophisticated search capabilities allow researchers to readily create lists of artists using various criteria, for example, Nova Scotia male water colourists born before 1930. The Artists in Canada database, updated on an ongoing basis, is a collaborative effort between the Library/Archives and CHIN — Canadian Heritage Information Network, and is accessible from the latter's web site.