Franz (Frank) Johnston

A Lake in Autumn, Algoma, c. 1918

oil on panel
9.5x6 in.

Collection of F.H. Brigden, Toronto, label to verso;
Private collection, Toronto

Like the work Sketch in Algoma, A Lake in Autumn, Algoma, comes to sale from an important collection, that of Canadian artist and founder of one of Canada’s most important historical design
firms, F.H. Brigden. This delightful small panel shows us Frank Johnston’s skill with the challenging scenery at Algoma. From high atop a ridge, we look down onto a blue pool of water, either a lake or a bend in a river, far below us. The water is bookended by trees, an evergreen on the right and the skeletal limbs of two additional trees on the left. The near ground forest floor and distant hillside are daubed with gold as sunlight gilds the land. Johnston’s careful brushwork, mostly vertical in application, adds the feeling of cloisonné enamel work to the panel.

Johnston took a hiatus from his work with the Canadian War Memorials in the fall of 1918 to participate in the boxcar trip, no doubt Lawren Harris’s enthusiastic reports from his Algoma
sojourn with James MacCallum persuaded him. The remote beauty and rugged scenery of Algoma was accessible only by the Algoma Central Railway, provider of the now infamous ACR 10557 boxcar.
These iconic trips are a key passage in Canadian art history, central to the formation of the Group of Seven in 1920, and a brilliant thread in the tapestry of the Group of Seven.

“In Johnston one can almost see the sound swelling into the vastness of infinity. The small panel is no restriction to the eye and one stands among the stars of timeless space. Dancing formless light, subaqueous in feeling, ephemeral as Aurora Borealis. It holds one motionless in moving space.” (1)…