The 5 most valuable Canadian artworks ever sold at auction

5 most valuable Canadian artworks ever sold at auction
Jessica Wong · CBC News · Posted: Nov 23, 2016 11:19 AM ET | Last Updated: June 19, 2017

‘Mountain Forms’, an iconic 1926 Rocky Mountain canvas by Group of Seven founder Lawren Harris, was sold by Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto in Nov. 2016, not long after being part of The Idea of North, Steve Martin’s show celebrating the art of Harris. (Heffel Fine Art Auction House. The commanding large-scale canvas Mountain Forms by iconic artist and Group of Seven founder Lawren Harris — a mountain scene from his coveted 1920s creative period — sold for a record $9.5 million at the Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto in Nov. 2016.

With a conservative presale estimate of $3 million to $5 million, the painting ultimately sold for much more, making it the most expensive Canadian artwork ever sold at auction, knocking off longtime record-holder Paul Kane’s Scene in the Northwest. Including the buyer’s sales premium, the painting sold for $11.21 million.

Here are the top five most valuable Canadian artworks ever sold at auction.

1. Lawren Harris, ‘Mountain Forms’
Sold in 2016 for $11,210,000 (all prices including sales premium)

2. Jean Paul Riopelle, ‘Vent du nord’
Sold in 2017 for $7,438,750

Paul Riopelle’s abstract work Vent du nord headed into Heffel’s spring 2017 auction with a conservative pre-sale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. (Heffel Auction/The Canadian Press)

3. Paul Kane, ‘Scene in the Northwest – Portrait of John Henry Lefroy’

Sold in 2002 for $5,062,000

Art lover and media baron Ken Thomson bought Scene in the Northwest at a Sotheby’s Canada sale in 2002, eventually donating it to the Art Gallery of Ontario. (Courtesy: The Thomson Collection/Art Gallery of Ontario)

4. Lawren Harris, ‘Mountain and Glacier’,
Sold in 2015 for $4,602,000

Heffel set a new record for a Harris work with Mountain and Glacier that was sold at an auction in Nov. 2015. (Heffel Fine Art Auction House)

5. Jeff Wall, ‘Dead Troops Talk (A Vision After an Ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, Winter 1986’)
Sold in 2012 for $3,666,400

Jeff Wall’s colossal photograph Dead Troops Talk was a record-setter at Christie’s in New York in 2012: highest price ever paid at auction for a Canadian photograph. (Christie’s)

May 17, 2018

The History of the Color Blue: From Ancient Egypt to the Latest Scientific Discoveries By Emma Taggart


The color blue is associated with two of Earth’s greatest natural features: the sky and the ocean. But that wasn’t always the case. Some scientists believe that the earliest humans were actually colorblind and could only recognize black, white, red, and only later yellow and green. As a result, early humans with no concept of the color blue simply had no words to describe it. This is even reflected in ancient literature, such as Homer’s Odyssey, that describes the ocean as a “wine-red sea.”

Blue was first produced by the ancient Egyptians who figured out how to create a permanent pigment that they used for decorative arts. The color blue continued to evolve for the next 6,000 years, and certain pigments were even used by the world’s master artists to create some of the most famous works of art. Today it continues to evolve, with the latest shade discovered less than a decade ago. Read on to learn more about the color’s fascinating history.

1. Egyptian Blue

The History of the Color Blue

Egyptian Juglet, ca. 1750–1640 B.C. (Photo: Met Museum, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922.)

There’s a long list of things we can thank the ancient Egyptians for inventing, and one of them is the color blue. Considered to be the first ever synthetically produced color pigment, Egyptian blue (also known as cuprorivaite) was created around 2,200 B.C. It was made from ground limestone mixed with sand and a copper-containing mineral, such as azurite or malachite, which was then heated between 1470 and 1650°F. The result was an opaque blue glass which then had to be crushed and combined with thickening agents such as egg whites to create a long-lasting paint or glaze.

The Egyptians held the hue in very high regard and used it to paint ceramics, statues, and even to decorate the tombs of the pharaohs. The color remained popular throughout the Roman Empire and was used until the end of the Greco-Roman period (332 BC–395 AD), when new methods of color production started to evolve.

The History of the Color Blue

The figure of a Lion. ca. 1981–1640 B.C. (Photo: Met Museum, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922.)

Fun fact: In 2006, scientists discovered that Egyptian blue glows under fluorescent lights, indicating that the pigment emits infrared radiation. This discovery has made it a lot easier for historians to identify the color on ancient artifacts, even when it’s not visible to the naked eye.

2. Ultramarine Blue

The History of the Color Blue

“Virgin and Child with Female Saints” by Gérard David, 1500. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The history of ultramarine began around 6,000 years ago when the vibrant, semi-precious gemstone it was made from—lapis lazuli—began to be imported by the Egyptians from the mountains of Afghanistan. However, the Egyptians tried and failed to turn it into a paint, with each attempt resulting in a dull gray. Instead, they used it to make jewelry and headdresses.

Also known as “true blue,” lapis lazuli first appeared as a pigment in the 6th century and was used in Buddhist paintings in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. It was renamed ultramarine—in Latin: ultramarinus, meaning “beyond the sea”—when the pigment was imported into Europe by Italian traders during the 14th and 15th centuries. Its deep, royal blue quality meant that was highly sought after among artists living in Medieval Europe. However, in order to use it you had to be wealthy, as it was considered to be just as precious as gold.

The History of the Color Blue

“Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer, circa 1665. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Ultramarine was usually reserved for only the most important commissions, such as the blue robes of the Virgin Mary in Gérard David’s Virgin and Child with Female Saints. Supposedly, Baroque master Johannes Vermeer—who painted Girl with a Pearl Earring—loved the color so much that he pushed his family into debt. It remained extremely expensive until a synthetic ultramarine was invented in 1826, by a French chemist, which was then aptly named “French Ultramarine.”

Fun fact: Art historians believe that Michelangelo left his painting The Entombment (1500–01) unfinished because he could not afford to buy more ultramarine blue.

3. Cobalt Blue

The History of the Color Blue

“The Skiff (La Yole)” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Cobalt blue dates back to the 8th and 9th centuries, and was then used to color ceramics and jewelry. This was especially the case in China, where it was used in distinctive blue and white patterned porcelain. A purer alumina-based version was later discovered by French chemist Louis Jacques Thénard in 1802, and commercial production began in France in 1807. Painters—such as J. M. W. Turner, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincent Van Gogh—started using the new pigment as an alternative to expensive ultramarine.

The History of the Color Blue

“Dinky Bird” by Maxfield Parrish, 1904. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Fun fact: Cobalt blue is sometimes called Parrish blue because artist Maxfield Parrish used it to create his distinct, intensely blue skyscapes.

4. Cerulean Blue

The History of the Color Blue

“Summer’s Day” by Berthe Morisot, 1879. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Originally composed of cobalt magnesium stannate, the sky-colored cerulean blue was perfected by Andreas Höpfner in Germany in 1805 by roasting cobalt and tin oxides. However, the color was not available as an artistic pigment until 1860 when it was sold by Rowney and Company under the name of coeruleum. Artist Berthe Morisot used cerulean along with ultramarine and cobalt blue to paint the blue coat of the woman in A Summer’s Day, 1887.

Fun fact: In 1999, Pantone released a press release declaring cerulean as the “Color of the Millennium,” and “the hue of the future.”

5. Indigo Blue

The History of the Color Blue

Indigo, historical dye collection of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons )

Although blue was expensive to use in paintings, it was much cheaper to use for dying textiles. Unlike the rarity of lapis lazuli, the arrival of a new blue dye called “indigo” came from an excessively grown crop—called Indigofera tinctoria—that was produced across the world. Its import shook up the European textile trade in the 16th century, and catalyzed trade wars between Europe and America.

The History of the Color Blue

Indigo dyed textile (England), 1790s. (Photo: Matt Flynn via Wikimedia Commons)

The use of indigo for dyeing textiles was most popular in England, and was used to dye clothing worn by men and women of all social backgrounds. Natural indigo was replaced in 1880, when synthetic indigo was developed. This pigment is still used today to dye blue jeans. However, over the last decade scientists have discovered that the bacteria Escherichia coli can be bio-engineered to produce the same chemical reaction that makes indigo in plants. This method, called “bio-indigo,” will likely play a big part in manufacturing environmentally friendly denim in the future.

Fun fact: Sir Isaac Newton—the inventor of the “color spectrum”—believed that the rainbow should consist of seven distinct colors to match the seven days of the week, the seven known planets, and the seven notes in the musical scale. Newton championed indigo, along with orange, even though many other contemporary scientists believed the rainbow only had five colors.

6. Navy Blue

The History of the Color Blue

Navy cadets in uniform, 1877. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Formally known as marine blue, the darkest shade of blue—also known as navy blue—was adopted as the official color for British Royal Navy uniforms, and was worn by officers and sailors from 1748. Modern navies have since darkened the color of their uniforms to almost black in an attempt to avoid fading. Indigo dye was the basis for historical navy blue colors dating from the 18th century.

Fun fact: There are many variations of navy blue, including Space cadet, a color that was formulated in 2007. This hue is associated with the uniforms of cadets in the space navy; a fictional military service armed with the task of exploring outer space.

7. Prussian Blue

The History of the Color Blue

“The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Katsushika Hokusai, 1831. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Also known as Berliner Blau, Prussian blue was discovered accidentally by German dye-maker Johann Jacob Diesbach. In fact, Diesbach was working on creating a new red, however, one of his materials—potash—had come into contact with animal blood. Instead of making the pigment even more red like you might expect, the animal blood created a surprising chemical reaction, resulting in a vibrant blue.

The History of the Color Blue

Prussian Blue Pigment. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Pablo Picasso used the Prussian blue pigment exclusively during his Blue Period, and Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai used it to create his iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa, as well as other prints in his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series. However, the pigment wasn’t only used for creating masterpieces. In 1842, English astronomer Sir John Herschel discovered that Prussian blue had a unique sensitivity to light, and was the perfect hue to create copies of drawings. This discovery proved invaluable to the likes of architects, who could create copies of their plans and designs, that are today known as “blueprints.”

Fun fact: Today, Prussian blue is used in a pill form to cure metal poisoning.

8. International Klein Blue
The History of the Color Blue

“L’accord bleu (RE 10)”, 1960 by Yves Klein. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The History of the Color Blue

In pursuit of the color of the sky, French artist Yves Klein developed a matte version of ultramarine that he considered the best blue of all. He registered International Klein Blue (IKB) as a trademark and the deep hue became his signature between 1947 and 1957. He painted over 200 monochrome canvases, sculptures, and even painted human models in the IKB color so they could “print” their bodies onto canvas.

Fun fact: Klein once said “blue has no dimensions. It is beyond dimensions,” believing that it could take the viewer outside the canvas itself.

9. The Latest Discovery: YInMn

The History of the Color Blue

YInMn Blue. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In 2009, a new shade of blue was accidentally discovered by Professor Mas Subramanian and his then graduate student Andrew E. Smith at Oregon State University. While exploring new materials for making electronics, Smith discovered that one of his samples turned bright blue when heated. Named YInMn blue, after its chemical makeup of yttrium, indium, and manganese, they released the pigment for commercial use in June 2016.

Fun fact: YInMn blue was recently added to the Crayola crayon collection.

February 15, 2018

Why my interest in abstract landscapes?

Many people have asked me about my interest in abstracted landscapes, many of which are based on abstractions of the vibrant colours and geometric shapes derived from their respective photo references. I have discovered that by digitally manipulating these photos, I can generate new and more interestingly surreal reference subjects. For me, the resulting tension between these varied expressions of created order evoke humankind’s tendency to impose his will and control over nature to create a transformed reality. The results can display goodness, truth and beauty or profoundly distort and debase creation in the service of the opposite. I think this is worth painting about!

Saskatchewan River Forks 12″ W x 36″ H



January 26, 2018

Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands

“I was working on a big totem with heavy woods behind. How badly I want that nameless thing! First there must be an idea, a feeling, or whatever you want to call it, the something that interested or inspired you sufficiently to make you desire to express it…Then you must discover the pervading direction, the pervading rhythm, the dominant, recurring forms, the dominant colour, but always the thing must be top in your thoughts.  Everything must lead up to it, clothe it, feed it, balance it, tenderly fold it, till it reveals itself in all the beauty of its ideas.”

August 9, 2017

St. John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci

St. John the Baptist was painted by Leonardo da Vinci during 1513 to 1516, when the High Renaissance was metamorphosing into Mannerism, it is believed to be his last painting. This is an oil painting on walnut wood. The original size of the work was 69×57 cm. It is now exhibited at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France.

The pointing gesture of St. John toward the heavens suggests the importance of salvation through baptism that John the Baptist represents. The work is often quoted by later painters, especially those in the late Renaissance and Mannerist schools. The inclusion of a gesture similar to John’s would increase the importance of a work with a religious conceit.

Many people are critical of this work, finding it a disturbing representation of a character normally portrayed as gaunt and fiery, living in a desert and surviving on a diet of locusts and honey. In Leonardo’s painting St. John seems almost to be a hermaphrodite. He has a womanish arm bent across his breast, his finger raised towards heaven, and that same enigmatic smile so admired on the face of Mona Lisa, a smile which can be seen in other Leonardo paintings like that of St. Anne. His face is almost faun-like and framed by a glorious cascade of curls. The finger pointed towards heaven was to appear quite often in Leonardo’s work (the Burlington House cartoon is another example) and denotes the coming of Christ.

Leonardo was aware of the inherent dangers of this system. Earlier in his notes he warned that a figure will not be discerned against a dark background and will not appear to be detached from it. From a distance nothing will be visible but the illuminated parts. However, in the shadows of the body of St John the Baptist, Leonardo has retained just enough light for us to be able to comprehend his form fully. As in the moon, even the dark areas of his figure retain a slight glimmer of reflected radiance.

This is the last known major work in Leonardo’s hand. The figure’s haunting beauty comes from the ambiguity of its sexual identity. The luminous face seems to be an emanation of the darkness that completely envelops it. The mysterious gesture of the raised arm with upward-pointing finger is not just of religious but probably also of esoteric significance.

February 27, 2017

Thy Hand is in This Design

That I must know him…
For I am beguiled of this man, this Robin Goodfellow, this Puck,
Who stirs my heart with dreams of youth and beauty,
And in so doing, must transform my sanity and comfort.
Thy hand is in this design…
That I must feel and know the feeling of myself again,
This time unfettered by the fear of a heart laid bare
And made safe beneath the layers of subterfuge and guile.
I was protected and guarded against this temptation.
It was not my intent to admit him in.
And yet my senses are filled with him-
He has taken residence within my heart-
an unwelcome yet delicious boarder
of dark mystery and feeling.
Thy hand is in this design…
For it was not my plan to be entranced.
I am bewitched and must look upon his face
and know the beauty there within.
What has Thou done to me at this middle hour of my life?
To what purpose am I torn apart
and destined to look again at the contents of my heart?
There is folly here and I will not a fool be made.
Yet my heart says trust- that in this design,
I might know Thy will for me.
Lead me forth from this summer’s dream
that I might awaken and know the truth of me.

February 27, 2017

Fyodor Dostoyevsky – The Brothers Karamazov

February 27, 2017

Most Expensive Paintings in the World


Femme aux Bras Croisés (Woman with Folded Arms), 1902

Sold for $55 million in 2000


A Wheatfield with Cypresses, 1889

Sold for $57 million in 1993


Suprematist Composition, 1916

Sold for $60 million in 2008


Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier, 1894

Sold for $60.5 million in 1999


Police Gazette, 1955

Sold for $63.5 million in 2006


Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe (Self-portrait without beard), 1889

Sold for $71.5 million in 1998


Green Car Crash, 1963

Sold for $71.7 million in 2007


White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), 1950

Sold for $72.8 million in 2007


Massacre of the Innocents, 1611

Sold for $76.7 million in 2002


Bal du moulin de la Galette (Dance at Le moulin de la Galette), 1876

Sold for $78.1 million in 1990


False Start, 1959

Sold for $80 million in 2006


Le Bassin aux Nymphéas (Water Lily Pond), 1919

Sold for $80.5 million in 2008


Portrait of Dr. Gachet, 1890

Sold for $82.5 million in 1990


Triptych, 1976

Sold for $86.3 million in 2008


Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912

Sold for $87.9 million in 2006


Dora Maar au Chat (Dora Maar with Cat), 1941

Sold for $95.2 million in 2006


Garçon à la Pipe (Boy with a Pipe), 1905

Sold for $104.2 million in 2004


Nude, Green Leaves And Bust

Sold for $106 million in New York in 2012


The Scream

Sold for $119.9 million Sotheby’s in New York in 2012


Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907

Sold for $135 million in 2006


Woman III, 1953

Sold for $137.5 million in 2006


No. 5, 1948

Sold for $140 million in 2006


Le Rêve, 1932

Sold for $155 million in 2013


Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”), 1955

Sold for $179 million in 2015


No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red), 1951

Sold for $186 million in 2014


The Card Players, 1892

Sold for $272 million in 2011


Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When Will You Marry?), 1892

Sold for $300 million in 2015

February 27, 2017

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