Frank Hennessey R.C.A.

Winter in the Laurentians, 1929

oil on canvas
25.5x26.5 in

signed and dated 1929 lower left

Sale of Waddington’s, Canadian Art, May 31, 2005, lot 15;
Mayberry Fine Art, Toronto;
Private collection

Frank Hennessey’s life and career have been given far less attention by the Canadian art world than is deserved. He may, in fact, be one of the most under-rated artists of his time. He visited the Canadian arctic as early as 1908 – long before Harris and Jackson – and worked out-of-doors without championing that practice as something new and unique to him, and as naturalist and illustrator, he had not only the ability to keenly observe what he saw, but the knowledge within which he could frame it. In the heyday of the Group of Seven, the practice of working as a commercial artist (as many of The Group did) came to have negative connotations attached to it. So too, did those who were not able, or simply preferred to not take the risk of abandoning commercial work and painting purely at their own behest. This stigma still applies to some extent today, and as a result have thrown many an artist into the shadows. Hennessey is one of these. His airy, brilliantly lit works were widely appreciated during his lifetime, so much so that he was included in the “elite group of Canadian artists who exhibited at the iconic 1924 British Empire Exhibition in Wembley, and in the 1927 Exposition D’Art Canadien at Le Musée Jeu de Paume in Paris.” In this latter show, the work included was loaned from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

RCA, FRSA, OSA (1893-1941). Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Hennessey studied at Albion College, Michigan (B.A. 1916) but he was largely self-taught. He travelled to the Arctic Circle as an assitant naturalist and artist (c. 1907). He worked for the Geological Survey of Canada (1913-15) and as an entomologist for the…