Artwork by Albert Jacques Franck,  Chestnut Street

Albert Franck
Chestnut Street

watercolour and ink
signed and dated 1961 lower right
8 x 5 ins ( 20.3 x 12.7 cms ) ( card )

Sold for $977.50
Sale date: June 14th 2017

Provenance:
Private Collection, British Columbia

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Albert Jacques Franck
(1899 - 1973) OSA, RCA, ARCA

Born in Middelburg, Netherlands in 1899, Albert Jacques Franck was the son of an upper-middle class merchant, was musically trained as a violinist and cellist, and was a champion long distance swimmer. After leaving the Netherlands and his disapproving father, Franck briefly lived in California, France and Indonesia before permanently immigrating to Canada in 1926 to start a career as an artist.

Early in his career Franck worked in the Fine Art Department at Simpson's, but like most artists living in North America during the Great Depression he suffered the loss of a stable job. He kept up his spirits by painting Christmas cards and, although Franck established an art restoration business in 1940, he still longed to be recognized for his own creative vision. Completely self-taught, Franck came into his own as a fine artist in the 1940s. From 1947 he held solo exhibitions at Simpson's, Eaton's, Roberts Gallery, Hart House, Galerie Moos, and York University, all of which were regularly sold out. He also exhibited with the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA), Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA), and in public galleries. In addition to his painting he helped organize exhibitions for fellow artists at Eaton's Fine Arts in 1950 and 1951 and at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now Art Gallery of Ontario) in 1952.

Franck and his wife Florence Vale were often hosts to progressive Toronto artists such as the celebrated Painters Eleven. Florence was a surrealist painter and Franck produced oils, watercolours, and drawings of the small streets and back lots of old Toronto. He brought a keen eye to Toronto's forgotten and rapidly transforming urban areas, and was unique in speaking fondly of languishing neighbourhoods. He empathetically painted houses as if portraits of the city. Art critic Robert Fulford wrote of Franck in 1963, "He had an unpretentious devotion to his craft and a desire to reflect the city as it exists". Franck painstakingly photographed and recorded Toronto while it was undergoing a massive urban renewal project, so that he could paint them later with loving nostalgia. He was known for winter paintings of Victorian and early twentieth century houses in downtown Toronto. After moving to Ontario he traveled to New York, Quebec and Amsterdam to sketch, but his heart and his paintbrush remained loyal to the dignified old houses in Toronto.

Franck showed Torontonians the beauty of their own backyards. He "helped to give all these places a special existence in our minds" (Harold Town, 1963), as they disappeared from physical existence. While Franck generally received little critical attention during his lifetime, Clement Greenberg praised his work in the early 1960s, and Franck became the founding father of a whole school of Toronto urban art. Canadian artist Harold Town considered Franck like a second father and wrote emphatically about him in the York University exhibition brochure in 1963. Town also wrote a book in 1974 called “Albert Franck: Painter of the Lanes,” a year after Franck's death. He dutifully prepared his own varnish and masonite panels, and was committed to perfecting his vision. Franck said, "I'm not interested in turning out more work, only better. If people are waiting for my pictures now, I suggest they wait a little longer. I'm flattered to have a waiting list".

Sources

Constance Mungall, "A Franck Look at Toronto", The Star Weekly, Toronto, January 16, 1965, pages 9-13.
Nancy McVean, "Muted Miracles of Later Winter", The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Saturday March 21, 1987, page D5.
Robert Fulford & Harold Town, "The Vanishing City, An Exhibition of Paintings by Albert Jacques Franck", York University, March 9 & 10, 1963, exhibition pamphlet.