DENNIS EUGENE NORMAN BURTON
BRIDGE NEAR MACLEOD
oil on masonite
signed, titled and dated April ‘58 on the reverse
28 ins x 48 ins; 71.1 cms x 121.9 cms
Dennis Burton studied at OCA under Jock Macdonald in whom he found an informed and sympathetic mind on matters relating to abstraction. At the time, this was not a style widely embraced by the Toronto art college's administration or faculty (see lot 99). Joan Murray quotes the following anecdote recalled by Burton: "(Macdonald) told my parents who had come for my graduation in May 1956, that regardless of my final marks, I was the best painter he had encountered since Bill Ronald and that I should be encouraged to continue painting. He said I had 'it'."
Indeed, Macdonald had such faith in Burton's potential that he submitted his name for a Guggenheim fellowship which the artist was actually awarded. Due to an unfortunate case of misplaced correspondence, Burton did not know he had been chosen and never used the award. Ronald (see lot 96) and Coughtry (see lot 112) were also awarded this prestigious fellowship the same year.
After graduating from art school in 1956, Burton struggled to establish a personal direction for his art. Following many visits to New York and closely considering the work of artists such de Kooning and Tworkov, by 1958 Burton’s own approach to abstraction was established. David Burnett interprets Burton’s abstracts as, “seeking to deal with the issues between a tightly organized structure and a free, gestural handling of paint.”
The title of this work may refer to “Old Man River Bridge” in Fort Macleod, a landmark that Burton would have seen on his trips back home to Lethbridge, Alberta.
Joan Murray, Jock Macdonald's Students (catalogue), The Robert McLaughin Gallery, Oshawa, 1981, page 18.
David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff, Contemporary Canadian Art, Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton, 1983, page 88.
Private Collection, Toronto