de Grandmaison pastel sells for record price in Doc Seaman auction


By Robert Remington,  Calgary Herald May 26, 2009

n a post-Wall Street world of derivatives and Ponzi schemes, it comes as no surprise to art experts that a painting sold at the recent Doc Seaman estate auction fetched a record price, even in the current economic climate.”Rarity and quality in any economy commands a price,” says Robert Heffel of the Vancouver based Heffel Fine Art Auction House, a leading Canadian dealer.

A painting of a Blackfoot chief by artist Nicholas de Grandmaison sold May 9 in Calgary for $58,650, an auction sale record for a work by de Grandmaison. Titled One Gun Blackfoot from Cluny, Alta., it was part of a collection of western Canadian artists owned by the late Doc Seaman, the Calgary oil and cattle baron who was also a co-owner of the Calgary Flames.

The record price for the de Grandmaison came three weeks after an original oil painting by Group of Seven progenitor Tom Thomson sold at auction in Calgary for $350,000–$50,000 less than its reserve price and $150,000 below its top estimated value.

The low price for the Thomson had some pundits deriding art as an insecure investment in hard times. Not so, says Heffel.

“There are myriad factors that go into determining the value of a work of art, including quality, condition and rarity. The de Grandmaison was an important painting. What this shows, and this is a truism around the world, is that great works always get great prices.”

Ryan Mayberry, a Winnipeg art dealer who has dealt extensively in works by de Grandmaison, says he has sold the artist’s paintings privately for a higher price than that garnered at the Seaman sale. But the price in Calgary was a public auction record for a de Grandmaison, according to auction records.

The de Grandmaison was one of 55 paintings owned by Seaman that sold for a total of $248,000. Most were western art. In addition, 14 bronze sculptures sold for $29,000, bringing the total sale value of Seaman’s artwork to $277,000.

“Art is a tangible commodity,” says Mayberry. “Pieces that are highly collectible are all unique, one-of-a-kind items.”

What makes de Grandmaison’s work so unique, he says, is that they are important historical documents as well as great pieces of art. The artist is best known for his portraits of native people, done in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of his subjects were from southern Alberta, although de Grandmaison also painted in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the northern states.

“Not only was he a great technician working mainly in pastel, which is very difficult, but his subjects were all people that he had met personally. He wanted to document what he believed was a vanishing generation of true, red-blooded Indian people in their native dress,”Mayberry said.

Sonia de Grandmaison, the artist’s daughter, said she was not surprised by the record.

“A lot collectors tell me that these have been undervalued for a long time. He’s regarded as the most important recorder of Plains Indians, so who knows where this market could go,” she said.

A collection of her father’s work was recently exhibited in Germany, the first time he was featured outside North America, which she says may have been a factor in the Calgary price.

“I understand the successful bidder was an art dealer purchasing it for a client.”

Heffel, who specializes in Group of Seven artists, expects strong sales at the company’s show June 17 in Vancouver. It includes a work by Emily Carr with an estimated value between $900,000 and $1.2 million.

The company’s fall show last November, at the height of the economic malaise, brought in $12.6 million, which Heffel said was one of the most successful sales in Canadian history.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

~ by sonia011 on August 13, 2009.

4 Responses to “de Grandmaison pastel sells for record price in Doc Seaman auction”

  1. Hello from Russia)

    • Hello from Canada and glad you sent me a message.

      Nicholas de Grandmaison was born in southern Russia in 1892. His father who was in the army died in 1900. The same year his family consisting of his mother, Lubov, his sister Mary and his oldest brother, Michal moved to his mother’s parents town of Obojan, Province of Kursk. His mother’s parents were Ivan and Poline Varvarov. He lived there – about 40 miles away from their homestead (Hutor). He was there until the age of eleven when he was then sent to Moscow where his lived with his uncle. His uncle helped his mother place him in Military College. Nicholas graduated in 1911 and was transferred to Military School for training as an office in 1913 and was promoted to Sub Lieutenant in the First Infantry Regiment called Nevsky. He was there less than a year and got a transfer to the 2nd Garde Regiment call Keksgoemsky and was stationed in Warsaw, Poland. This was at the beginning of 1914.

      When the First World War broke out in August 1914, he moved with the Regiment as a unit of the 2nd Army under General Samsonov to East Prussia. Near the town of Allenstein, this 2nd Army had a tragic defeat in August and he was then taken prisoner of War in Germany.

  2. Nicholas Grandmaison did a pastel portrait of me when I was nine years old…. I am now 85 …. I am not of Indian heritage that I know of (I was adopted) … but Mr. Grandmaison knew my dad in Winnipeg and I think probably did the portrait as a favor to my dad. I live in Sacramento, California now and a local artist admired the way my portrait has survived the years. I was a tomboy in my youth and always have told my five sons that it was done when I was a “little boy”….
    My name is Mary Barnard (nee Denison)

  3. Thank you for your contribution to this site. I am always pleased to hear from people that my father painted and to know more about the history of the subject. It is also important to have a title and date on the portrait for viewers in the future. If you are able to send a picture of it to me, I will gladly post it here.

    Congratulations on reaching the age of 85 – you sound in good health and good spirits.

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