Price Realized: $
Date: 1957
Artist: Maxwell Bennett Bates
Medium: oil on board
Dimensions: 24 x 15 in. (61 x 38.1 cm)

signed lower right; titled & dated verso
Provenance: Masters Gallery, Calgary AB (label verso)
Literature: “Maxwell Bates in Retrospect 1921-1971” (Vancouver Art Gallery; 1973); “Maxwell Bates: A Canadian Expressionist” (Art Gallery of Alberta; 2004); “Maxwell Bates: Canada’s Premier Expressionist of the 20th Century: His Art, Life and Prisoner of War Notebook” (Nancy Townsend; Nancy Townshend and Snyder Hedlin Fine Arts; 2005).

Calgary-born Bates, an early artistic pioneer and iconoclast, is now considered one of Canada’s most important expressionist painters. From a young age, Bates immersed himself in art books and developed his own artistic vision. His father, Architect William Stanley, whose profession his son would adopt and practice during much of his life, was an interesting influence on him. A horrified reaction to a modernist sketch was buoying – as Bates would say, “Strangely enough. that seemed to me reason to feel encouraged.” Max Bates had few artists of the time with whom to share his thoughts; he was drawn to W. L. Stevenson who shared his interest in modernism. Between 1926 and 1931, they would often get together to discuss each other’s work and their ideas on art, rejecting the traditional teachings at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art. At an early exhibit with the Calgary Arts Club, Bates submitted a non-objective piece titled “Male and Female Forms”; he was expelled and prohibited from exhibiting with them again. (Stevenson suffered a similar fate). They were also excluded from the Alberta Society of Artists.

Since Calgary at the time seemed an inhospitable environment, and wanting to learn more, Bates left for London, where he lived for ten years. During this time, he is said to have taken in some two thousand art exhibitions, and he exhibited regularly. Bates became a member of the Twenties Group (1932-1939), an association of prominent Expressionists and Surrealists. In an important 1937 exhibition, held against the political backdrop of Hitler’s suppressive art policies, Bates’ work was exhibited alongside artistic innovators such as Picasso, Matisse, and Kandinsky.

During the post-war years, back in Calgary, Maxwell Bates came to be highly regarded and influential within the artistic community. The years between 1954 and 1960 were a particularly productive and notable period. The end of the decade brought a retrospective touring exhibition of his work (Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina), and an appointment to the RCA . The use of allegory, symbolism, and archetypal figures were often characteristic of his work, as was Bates’ idea of man being worked on by forces outside his control (the theme of destiny versus free will). The intense gaze and strong arm of the deity figure are dominant in this painting. Bates, often incorporated elements into his work from artists whom he admired, an homage rather than derivation. In this case, we see elements of both Picasso (in style) and Gauguin (in theme).

LOT: 26

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