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Published on January 29, 2024

The MFMA’s Quebec and Canadian art collection is enriched by two major acquisitions

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is delighted to announce the recent acquisition of two major works by Canadian artists Robert C. Todd (1809-1866) and Robert Harris (1849-1919).

Corbeau at Montmorency Falls (1845) by Robert Clow Todd

Born in England, Robert Clow Todd settled in the town of Montmorency, on the outskirts of Quebec City, in 1833. Later, in 1854, he moved to Toronto, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Few works are attributed to this artist, and the most important of them are held in museum collections. For this reason, Todd paintings very rarely appear for sale at auction.

Corbeau at Montmorency Falls attests to the ties Todd had with the prosperous timber merchant, builder and shipowner Allan Gilmour who, in 1845, asked the artist to immortalize his trotting horse Corbeau (the French word for crow) in a painting. He depicted the horse, who got his name from his shiny black coat, in front of the Montmorency Falls – a quintessentially Quebec winter scene. The work was widely acclaimed in the city, prompting Todd to create several similar representations of proud calèche owners against the backdrop of the falls.

Todd’s integration of the various elements of the composition presents a slice of the history of colonization in Canada.

The Skipper’s Daughter (1908) by Robert Harris

Born in Wales, Robert Harris immigrated with his family to Prince Edward Island in 1856, and then settled in Montreal after completing his studies in Europe and the United States. He became an instructor at the fine arts school of the Art Association of Montreal (today’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). A highly esteemed Canadian portraitist, Harris is particularly famous for his canvas The Fathers of Confederation, which was destroyed in a fire that tore through the Parliament buildings in Ottawa in 1916. It was this commission, in fact, that sparked his career and established his reputation.

The Skipper’s Daughter represents Harris’s goddaughter, the Canadian painter and member of the Beaver Hall Group, Lilias Torrance Newton, when she was a child. Dressed in a white dress with white socks and shoes, it is quite possible she was at a wedding when she posed for this portrait. Among the unique aspects of the canvas is its Impressionist features. With its luminosity, small touches of bright colours, pastel hues and fluid brushstrokes, the painting is a distinct departure from the artist’s earlier, more sombre, production.

The acquisition of these two artworks was made possible thanks to the generosity of Donald Luc Boisvert and Gaston Lamontagne.

Photo credit : Robert Clow Todd (1809-1866) Corbeau at Montmorency Falls, 1845 | Robert Harris (1849-1919), The Skipper’s Daughter, 1908. MMFA, purchases, Donald Luc Boisvert and Gaston Lamontagne Fund. Photos MMFA, Julie Ciot

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