Detail of James Wilson Morrice's "LaPlage."

James Wilson Morrice canvas outperforms at auction with more than million-dollar sale

A canvas by Montreal-born artist James Wilson Morrice exceeded expectations with a more than million-dollar sale at the Heffel Fine Art Auction House’s virtual live auction Wednesday night.

Morrice’s impressionist canvas “La plage” sold for more than $1.1 million — more than doubling its highest pre-sale estimate of $500,000.

Heffel says Morrice painted the piece around 1898 to 1899, and the work’s whereabouts were unknown for more than a century before it hit the Canadian market.

Other big-ticket items at the fall sale included seven works by late Quebec artist Jean Paul Riopelle.

Riopelle’s 1953 canvas “Sans titre” sold for more than $1.4 million, near the middle of its estimated range of $1.2 million and $1.8 million.

“La ligne d’eau,” a large-scale work from Riopelle’s “Iceberg” series, sold for slightly more than its $1.2 million pre-sale price tag.

Canadian painter Alex Colville’s 1987 “Woman with Revolver” commanded more than $840,000.

Two 1950s paintings by Nanaimo, B.C., artist E.J. Hughes outperformed pre-sale estimates. “Steamer Arriving at Nanaimo” sold for more than $840,000, while “Three Tugboats, Nanaimo Harbour” fetched roughly $600,000.

Among the lots that saw the strongest bidding were works by Canada’s famed Group of Seven, which marked a century since the collective’s founding this year.

Lawren Harris’ “Sand Lake, Algoma” sold for more than $630,000, while A.Y. Jackson’s “Ontario Mining Town, Cobalt” garnered nearly $350,000.

A few high-profile lots went unsold, including Frederick Varley’s portrait of his muse, “Green and Gold, Portrait of Vera,” which was expected to fetch $500,000 and $700,000.

Canadian artist Jack Bush’s “Blue Stant,” which was valued between $500,000 and $650,000, also flopped on the auction block.

In total, Heffel says Wednesday’s auction raked in $15 million. All sums include auction house fees on top of the hammer price.

Collectors placed their offers through telephone, absentee and online bidding.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.

The Canadian Press