Lot #22

Philip Surrey
Winter Street Scene

oil on canvas
signed to the left
18 x 24 ins ( 45.7 x 61 cms )

Sold for $14,950.00
Sale date: November 23rd 2017

Provenance:
Private Collection, Toronto
Literature:
Terry Rigelhof, Philip Surrey (1910-1990): Retrospective Exhibition, Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal, 2004, page 2
A skilled interpreter of both physical and psychological space, Philip Surrey was known for depicting scenes of Montreal’s streets and their inhabitants. His paintings of the forties and fifties are characterized by sombre colours, mysterious shadows, and an eerie stillness. Surrey's studies of isolation within society add emotional depth to his Montreal street scenes. From the 1960s on, his work is brighter and and more stylized with gregarious urban dwellers. In “Winter Street Scene”, Surrey revisits the sombre approach of his earlier paintings. The canvas illustrates a particularly bleak time of year, heightening the feeling of loneliness and isolation that recurs in the artist’s work. A figure walks on the sidewalk toward the viewer, bundled up and engulfed in a gust of wind, while another crosses the street, which is covered in a thin layer of snow. During a time when days are short, the storefronts and stoplights are the only sources of light.

Recognized as the “leading exponent of urban landscape painting in Canada,” Philip Surrey received the Order of Canada in 1982; the citation reads: “His Montreal street scenes convey an emotive vision of the modern city, with its anonymous crowds and individual solitudes. His expressive style and a poetic humanitarianism constitute a unique contribution to Canadian art.” The distinct sombreness and stillness to the painter’s work has been compared to the mood of Giorgio de Chirico’s piazzas and Edward Hopper’s American street scenes, and has established a significant rank for Surrey in Canadian art history.

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Philip Henry Howard Surrey
(1910 - 1990) RCA, CAS, Order of Canada

"Each individual is alone, cut off. Each wonders how others cope with life. A work of art is a particularly complex statement, valuable because packed with meaning... Like icebergs, four-fifths of our personalities lie below the surface; of the fifth that shows, only part can be expressed in conversation. The only effective outlet for all deeper feelings and thoughts is art." (Philip Surrey, c. 1949)

Philip Surrey, a founding member of the Contemporary Arts Society, was a figurative painter with an enduring interest in human subjects within urban nightscapes. For most of his career, Surrey used Montreal as his stage, arranging lighting and figures - most often pedestrians - in compositions that revealed both the gregarious nature and the solitude of humanity. A friend and student of Frederick Varley, Surrey was also closely tied to many of the most important Montreal artists and writers of the 1930s and 1940s.

Philip Surrey began his art training in Winnipeg at age sixteen, when he took an apprenticeship at Brigdens commercial art firm. There, he met Fritz Brandtner. In the evenings, he took classes at the Winnipeg School of Art under LeMoine FitzGerald and George Overton. It was at this time that he started painting the streets and people of Winnipeg after dark, by the light of streetlamps and restaurants. He moved to Vancouver in 1929 and took a job as a commercial artist at Cleland-Kent Engraving. In night classes at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts, he studied with Frederick Varley and Jock Macdonald. Surrey left Vancouver in 1936 and spent three months at New York's Art Students League, studying under Frank Vincent Dumond. The following year, he settled in Montreal and found work at the Standard newspaper. He continued to paint in evenings and on weekends and became immersed in the art scene, rekindling his friendship with Brandtner and befriending John Lyman, Goodridge Roberts, Jori Smith and Jean Palardy.

Philip Surrey was awarded the Centennial Medal (1967). He held an honorary doctorate form Concordia University (1981), and was a member of the Order of Canada (1982).