Artwork by Charles Fraser Comfort,  Smokestacks, Copper Cliff

Charles Comfort
Smokestacks, Copper Cliff

oil on board
signed lower left
10 x 12 ins ( 25.4 x 30.5 cms )

Sold for $33,040.00
Sale date: May 29th 2018

Provenance:
Wedding gift from the artist (1946)
By descent to the present Private Collection, Ontario
Exhibited:
70th Exhibition, Ontario Society of Artists, 1942
Literature:
Charles C. Hill, Canadian Painting in the Thirties, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1975, page 11
Charles C. Hill, Interview with Charles and Louise Comfort, National Gallery of Canada fonds, Canadian Painting in the Thirties Exhibition Records, October 3, 1973, transcribed by Nina Berkout (March 31, 2008), page 86
A striking modernist example of Comfort's artistic style, “Smokestacks, Copper Cliff” holds testament to the artist's focus on distilled drama rendered in simplified forms. One of several panels and sketches focused on this site-specific project commissioned by Inco Limited, Comfort later developed a final canvas in 1936 entitled “Smelter Stacks, Copper Cliff” based directly off of this sketch and acquired by the National Gallery of Canada in 1957.

Situated just outside of Sudbury, Copper Cliff was home to a significant nickel mine, Inco Limited. The organization was one of the world's leading nickel mines for most of the twentieth century before being purchased by Vale Mining Company. Worldwide, the Copper Cliff site remains one of the world's largest mining projects. In a 1973 interview with art historian, Charles Hill, Comfort describes his relations with Inco: “Essentially my association with the Nickel Company was that they had asked me earlier to do a number of institutional drawings in their magazines. I did a lot of drawings for them… I went to Sudbury, to Rossport, in 1935... but I did at least seven or eight sketches of slag heaps, and mine heads and the stacks.”

In this tight composition, Comfort situates the iconic smelting stacks at the centre of the composition with the billowing smoke dramatically filling the sky and swirling to the upper edges of the composition, highlighting both the beauty and danger of the mining industry. These smelting stacks and booming industry made a distinct impression on the artist, with similar motifs figuring prominently in a number of works. In the artist's grand mural entitled, “The Romance of Nickle” (1937), Comfort produced an ode to Canada's bourgeoning mining and smelting industry which was pivotal in creating whole new communities throughout Canada and propelling national modern industry on the global stage. On this master mural, Hill writes in his acquisition justification of the work for the National Gallery of Canada, referencing “Smelting Stacks, Copper Cliff”: “the grey lady of Copper Cliff [who] rose 574 feet above the smelter sheds, her face to the weather, her hair blowing in the wind.”

In this work, Comfort situates the iconic smelting stacks at the centre of the composition with the billowing smoke dramatically filling the sky and swirling to the upper edges of the composition. These smelting stacks and booming industry made a distinct impression on the artist, with similar motifs figuring prominently in a number of works. There is a rather dark poetic majesty in both the subject matter and execution of this specific site. Like the machinery of the industry itself, Comfort executes a precise composition emphasizing razor-sharp line and form, coupled with strategic colour choice, radiating light and accentuating the epic grandeur of the modern site. Comfort articulates the powerful harnessing of natural resources for mass industry while making a distinct underlying comment on Canada's early nation-building endeavours.

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Charles Fraser Comfort
(1900 - 1994) OSA, PRCA, RCA, CSPWC, MSA, CSGA, CGP

Charles Comfort was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on July 22, 1900 and immigrated to Winnipeg in 1912. After working at Brigden's in Winnipeg and studying at the Arts Students’ League in New York he moved to Toronto in 1925. From 1960 to 1965 Comfort served as Director of the National Gallery of Canada. While the National Gallery had had custody of the War Art Collections since 1946, it was only under Comfort that a Curator of War Art was appointed. During that time Comfort's commitment to war art showed itself in the funds made available for the proper storage and care of the collections and in the many important acquisitions in which he was personally involved. Some of the most popular Canadian paintings of the Second World War are Comfort's work. "The Hitler Line", a dramatic subject based on the artist's experiences in the Italian campaign hangs permanently in the Canadian War Museum. Comfort's careful reconstruction of the events of the ill-fated "Dieppe Raid" is another well-known composition.