Frank Arbuckle piece gets five times more than opening bid
A decades-old landscape painting depicting a small fishing community in this province brought in more than $30,000 during an online auction Thursday.
“True Lovers Leap, Newfoundland,” painted by the late Franklin Arbuckle of Toronto, sold for $30,680 — five times above the opening bid of $6,000 in the auction, which was held by Cowley Abbott auctioneers, formerly Consignor Canadian Fine Art, based in Ontario.
“We’re delighted to have such a strong result for a painting of impeccable quality and a high level of rarity,” Rob Cowley, president of the auction company and a Canadian art specialist, told The Telegram.
“(It) drew interest from across Canada and beyond, including clients in Newfoundland.”
Cowley said the final bid for the painting is a new record for an Arbuckle work at auction and more than doubles the previous auction record for the painter’s work — $14,950 for “Arriving at the Station,” an 18 x 24 canvas that sold in November 2006.
The “True Lovers Leap, Newfoundland” piece was a special piece, he said.
Measuring 76.2 x 101.6 cms, the oil painting on canvas was exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy (RCA) in Montreal in 1949 and was pictured in the RCA’s catalogue that season.
It’s believed to be the first time it had been put up for sale since it was created in the late 1940s. Cowley said the owners decided to part with it because they were downsizing.
“The quality of it and amount of detail is just incredible,” Cowley said about the painting. “It varies from his other work. … It has a high level of drama — the dark contrast with the beaming sun and the details in the cliffs and the water. It’s truly spectacular.”
Arbuckle was born Toronto and studied at the Ontario College of Art under J.W. Beatty and J.E.H. MacDonald, members of the Group of Seven, a group of highly esteemed Canadian artists.
He attended summer classes at Franz Johnston’s Georgian Bay art school.
During the war, Arbuckle turned his hand to commercial work and became an extremely successful illustrator. His fine art painting encompassed both realism and impressionism. His work often appeared on the cover of McLean’s magazine. He was also a commercial artist and created many murals.
His work is in many of the major collections across Canada, including the National Gallary of Canada.
Cowley said it’s unknown what Arbuckle’s connection was to this province, but noted it wasn’t unusual for artists from Ontario and Quebec to make trips to Newfoundland.
It’s not clear, either, which community the painting depicts, but Cowley believes it’s the area around Brigus and Cupids.
It’s why he has such a personal connection with the painting, as his family is from that area.
“Coming from there myself, every family member I have shared the image with has been taken with it,” he said. “I was drawn to it immediately and I tell you, every client who has come through the door, whether they have a connection to Newfoundland or not, is blown away by the painting.”
Alison Butler of Emma Butler Gallery, located on George Street in St. John’s, said Arbuckle’s work is highly admired, which is why her gallery currently has three of his paintings — “Trinity East,” “Keels” and “Gooseberry.”
“Arbuckle was an exceptional Canadian painter and his work is highly regarded for its ability to capture both mood and place, and for his skilful composition,” Butler said.
“This particular painting is Arbuckle at his best.”
The painting went to a collector in Toronto, Cowley said.
“We will miss the painting in the gallery,” he said. “But we’re delighted that the canvas will now move on to a new home, where it’ll be cherished.”