David Milne

Edam Cheese, 1938

15x22 in.

Six Mile Lake,  Muskoka, Ontario, February 1938

Inscribed by Duncan: W-80 Edam Cheese
Inscribed by Duncan Estate: 60

Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto;
Mel Dobrin, Montreal, 1978;
Fraser Brothers Auctions, Montreal, October 23, 1986, lot 20;
Al Purvis, Edmonton, Alberta;
Joyner Fine Art, Toronto, 1989;
Doug Udell Gallery, Edmonton, 1994;
Peter Ohler Fine Art, Vancouver, 1994;
Private collection, Kelowna, 1994;
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary;
Private collection

David Silcox and David Milne Jr., David B. Milne: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, vol. 2, pp. 656-57;
David Silcox, Painting Place: The Life and Work of David Milne, pp. 284-85

In the late 1930s, after a nearly 12 year break from painting watercolour, David Milne returned to using the medium. Edam Cheese was painted in February of 1938, while Milne was living in a cabin that he built himself in Six Mile Lake on the Severn River. While he was working on the painting, he wrote the following to Graham McInnes, Milne’s friend and a columnist for the magazine Saturday Night:

“(This painting) comes from the following objects .. Edam Cheese, red mesh bag of mixed nuts, 2 corrugated bottle wrappers (in one there is a bottle of H.P. Sauce, but it is out of sight so you wouldn’t know about that, the other nothing), large box of Glace fruits, with the lid open, (half the fruits eaten by the little crinkled papers left), 1 jar of Keillers Dundee Marmalade still wrapped in white paper and one small jar of light coloued honey. A very difficult subject, I don’t advise any artist with a strong appetite to tackle it.”

The early 1930s had been full of change: Milne separated from his first wife, Patsy, and in 1933, he moved from Palgrave to Six Mile Lake. After the completion of his cabin, he spent most of his time alone painting. By 1937, after a long hiatus from the medium, Milne returned to painting watercolour. In 1938, he produced nearly eighty paintings, all of which were done in watercolour except for one. Still life works, like Edam Cheese were a focus for Milne during his time in Six Mile Lake, and he thought extensively about how they were composed. In the same letter to Graham McInnes, Milne writes of organizing the composition of Edam Cheese in three colours, from “black to yellow by way of red”, to draw the viewer’s eye through the painting:

“You start at the cheese, black and white, strong but with little detail, not emphasized. Then up through thte two cardboard containers, without holes or much detail. Down and then up through the more detailed bag of nuts in which there is more colour. Then across, more slowly by way of the box and its contents, full of colour and detail – the high point of the progression. Then down by way of the marmalade jar and the jar of clear honey, which is pale yellow, not strong but quite different from anything else in the picture.”

David Brown Milne was born at Burgoyne, Ontario in 1882. The youngest of 10 children born to Presbyterian Scottish immigrants, Milne’s training and initial recognition took place in New York. In Canada he was practically unknown until 1934, and he did not receive the same attention as the Group of…