Emily Carr painting fetches more than $2M at Vancouver auction

Emily Carr's Wind in the Tree Tops may feature its fair share of green on its canvas, but the 1930s work has now generated even more green at auction.

Heffel's sees strong overall sales of $11.3 million

Wind in the Tree Tops, a rare and mature Emily Carr oil on canvas painting, sold for more than $2.16 million at Heffel's spring art auction in Vancouver on Wednesday.
A 1930s-era Emily Carr painting dubbed "one of the rarest treasures" among Canadian art has sold for more than $2.16 million, becoming one of the highest-priced Canadian paintings ever sold at auction.

Carr's oil-on-canvas titled Wind in the Tree Tops fetched a whopping $2,164,500 at the second sessions of Vancouver-based Heffel Fine Art Auction House's spring sale on Wednesday evening. Though Carr's works on paper or panel regularly turn up at auction, her canvas paintings are rare commodities more commonly held by museums, large art galleries and private collectors.

"A painting from this period is one of the rarest treasures in Canadian art, so it is not surprising we shattered the previous Carr record by $1 million," Robert Heffel, who leads the company with his brother David, said in a statement.

Wind in the Tree Tops is now the fourth-highest-priced painting in Canadian history.

Three other Carr works also achieved good prices on Wednesday: A Forest Clearing sold for $187,200, Shore and Forest (Cordova Bay) sold for $128,700 and Tangle also sold for $128,700.

Heffel also managed to crack the $1-million mark with works by two other iconic Canadian artists.

Birches and Cedar, Fall, a Tom Thomson oil-on-panel dating from 1915, sold for just over $1.4 million, significantly surpassing its pre-auction estimate of $600,000 to $800,000.

One of the evening's highlights was the sale of Jouet, one of Quebec artist Jean-Paul Riopelle's famed drip paintings. The whimsically titled oil-on-canvas work sold for $1.17 million, within its pre-sale estimate.

Like Carr's Wind in the Tree Tops, Riopelle's Jouet dates from a sought-after period: in this case early 1953, when Riopelle — then based in Paris — made his Guggenheim Museum debut in an exhibit titled Younger European Painters at the New York venue. The show helped introduce his work to influential New York art critics, who heaped praised on the Canadian artist.

Another Riopelle painting, Côte sauvage, fetched $187,200.

Several other notable sales of the night included:

  • Coastal Figure by Alexander Colville, $526,500.
  • Algoma Hillside by J.E.H. MacDonald, $409,500.
  • After the Blizzard in Manitoba by William Kurelek, $245,700.
  • Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park by John William Beatty, $222,300.
  • Trees on a Point, Mill Bay, BC by E.J. Hughes, $175,500.

All prices include a 17 per cent buyer's premium.

Overall, the two Heffel's sessions (the Post-War & Contemporary Art sale and the Fine Canadian Art sale) sold $11.3 million worth of artwork overall.

Jean-Paul Riopelle's 1953 painting Jouet was also a highlight of the Vancouver sale, with the coveted drip painting fetching $1.17 million. ((Heffel Fine Art Auction House) )