Rare Paul Kane painting highlight of Heffel auction
Paul Kane was Canada’s most famous artist before the emergence of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven . But most of the 19th century artist’s paintings are in institutions, which makes Kane paintings that come up for auction very rare, and very valuable.
“Our family has been in the art business since 1978, and we’ve never had the opportunity to sell a Paul Kane,” said David Heffel of the Heffel Gallery.
That will change Dec. 1, when Kane’s 1855 painting Assiniboine Hunting Buffalo will go up for sale at the Heffel auction . The pre-auction estimate is $2.5 million to $3.5 million.
It’s on view at the Heffel Gallery at 2247 Granville St. through Oct. 27 before heading for previews in Montreal and Toronto. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, you have to make an appointment to get in at heffel.com/auction/ .
The prairie scene was done in Kane’s Toronto studio almost a decade after he had witnessed it in 1846. Kane made several trips across Western Canada between 1845 and 1848, doing sketches and watercolours he later worked up in his studio.
Many of his works show First Nations’ life before white settlers arrived and changed the West.
“The critical legacy of Kane’s art is a visual record of culture and landscape that soon would be the archive of a lost time and place,” writes Kenneth Lister in the auction catalogue.
In this case, Kane painted the scene three times — one version is in the National Gallery in Ottawa.
Heffel said this version sold in 1990 for $400,000, but prices have gone up. Kane’s 1845-46 painting Scene in the Northwest-Portrait set a Canadian record when it sold for $5.06 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Toronto in 2002. (It was surpassed by the $11.2 million paid for Lawren Harris’s Mountain Forms in 2016.)