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News / December 5, 2013

$3.39-Million Emily Carr Sale Leads Fall Auction Results

A detail of Emily Carr's <em>The Crazy Stair (The Crooked Staircase)</em> (circa 1928–30), which went for a record-breaking $3.39 million at the Heffel auction / photo courtesy A detail of Emily Carr's The Crazy Stair (The Crooked Staircase) (circa 1928–30), which went for a record-breaking $3.39 million at the Heffel auction / photo courtesy

As Canada wrapped up its fall art auctions this past week, it was the sale of a single Emily Carr painting by Heffel that caught the most attention.

On November 28 at the Heffel auction in Toronto, Carr’s painting The Crazy Stair—held for many years by the Vancouver Club—went to an anonymous bidder for $3.39 million. This set multiple auction records: the most ever paid at auction for an Emily Carr painting, the most achieved for the work of a Canadian female artist and the fourth most valuable piece ever sold in Canadian art auction history.

The original estimate for the painting was $1.2 to $1.6 million, but its price rose dramatically in what was described as a lively bidding war. In total, eight Emily Carr pieces were sold during the Heffel fall auction.

The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson continued to draw significant attention from buyers at Canadian auctions as well.

Heffel sold Thomson’s Canoe Lake for $1.69 million when it was originally expected to bring $400,000 to $600,000. On November 27 in Toronto, Waddington’s sold A.J. Casson’s Leaf-Burning, Autumn in Ontario for $141,600; it was originally estimated at $70,000 to $90,000. And in Consignor‘s online auction that wrapped up November 29, Thomson’s Daydreaming (Portrait of Thoreau MacDonald) sold for $172,500; it was originally estimated at $200,000 to $250,000.

In auctions overseas, the Toronto Star reported that a painting by Canadian scientist Frederick Banting exceeded its auction estimates. According to the Star, hammer price for Banting’s Georgian Bay, Ontario was $34,901, while it had been estimated at $17,000 and $26,000. Banting, best known as the primary discoverer of insulin, was friends with Group of Seven members and enjoyed painting landscapes.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor based in Toronto. Her arts journalism has appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications, and her creative work has been published in Prism, Room and Freefall. She can be reached via