More than a dozen paintings by artists with ties to Vancouver Island — including ones by Emily Carr and E.J. Hughes — brought top dollar in an online auction Wednesday, with works by the two famous Vancouver Islanders selling for a combined $3 million.
E.J. Hughes and Emily Carr originals were standouts at the semi-annual auction held by Toronto’s Heffel Fine Art Auction House, where international bidders spent upwards of $15 million on 100 museum-quality post-war, contemporary, impressionist and modern artworks.
Included near the top of the sales leaderboard were six paintings by Hughes, which sold for a combined $1.68 million, and four paintings and one ceramic bowl by Carr, which netted $1.34 million.
Carr’s South Bay, Skidegate ($811,250) and Hughes’s Steamer Arriving at Nanaimo ($841,250) and Three Tugboats, Nanaimo Harbour ($601,250) all more than doubled their pre-auction estimates.
“These are good, solid prices for Hughes,” said Victoria artist and author Robert Amos, Hughes’s official biographer. “These paintings are the ones that are so beloved, and so expensive.”
Carr painted South Bay, Skidegate when she was visiting Moresby Island in Haida Gwaii.
Steamer Arriving at Nanaimo, also known as Steamer Approaching the Dock, was reproduced in the Victoria Times, a precursor to the Times Colonist, in 1951 — one year after Hughes painted the original. Hughes finished the painting while he was living in Victoria and was largely unknown, according to Amos. When it first came onto the market, it sold for $150, Amos said.
Paintings by Carr and Hughes have sold well at previous Heffel auctions. Carr’s The Crazy Stair (The Crooked Staircase) sold for $3,393,000 in 2013, while Hughes’s Fishboats, Rivers Inlet netted $2,041,250 in 2018.
Paintings by former Duncan schoolteacher Jack Shadbolt and colour woodcutter Walter J. Phillips, who spent the last years of his life in Victoria, also drew strong interest at this week’s Heffel auction. Parksville’s Takao Tanabe, whose Sunset 7/87 topped out at $133,250, was the only living artist with ties to the area whose work sold Wednesday.