ALFRED JOSEPH CASSON, O.S.A., P.R.C.A.
ABANDONED FARM - HALFWAY LAKE, 1958
oil on board
signed; also signed, titled and dated on the reverse (twice)
12 ins x 15 ins; 30.5 cms x 38.1 cms
A.J. Casson distinguished himself from other members of the Group by painting the rural villages and houses of Ontario. Throughout his career, Casson’s oils and watercolours often indicate a human presence in the landscape. Nineteen fifty-eight was the year that Casson ended his career as a commercial artist, retiring from Sampson-Matthews where he had been vice-president and art director. Thus began his life as a full-time artist and his relationship with the Roberts Gallery in Toronto which held his first one-man show in 1959. The Roberts shows exposed Casson to a much broader audience than had previously known his work.
Abandoned Farm – Halfway Lake was painted in the autumn of 1958 in the Madawaska Valley which Casson had begun visiting in the 1940s. His interest in translating natural forms into abstracted patterns that began in the previous decade can be seen in this sketch, particularly in the paddle-shaped trees and cloud formations. The stark geometry of the human structures (the farm buildings) is contrasted with the organic quality of the gentle curving hills covered in muted tones of autumn foliage. This contrast of forms that Casson used in his pictures of rural houses and villages—the relationship between man-made structures and the landscape—is particularly effective here, heightening the eerie quality created by the black forms of abandoned buildings. Casson would have encountered many such abandoned buildings in his drives through the northern Ontario countryside searching for subject matter—the traces of earlier settlement patterns and the changes brought about by industry and transportation over time.
Roberts Gallery Limited, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto