The E.J. Hughes painting Fishboats, Rivers Inlet sold for $2,041,250 and broke the previous record for the late British Columbia artist.
But the 1946 painting didn’t bring the top price at the auction. That was $2,881,250 for Jean Paul Riopelle’s intense 1953 abstract Jouet.
Both prices include a buyer’s premium on top of the live “hammer” price. The overall sale brought in $22,746,250 for 120 lots.
The small but exquisite 1926 Lawren Harris painting Mountain Sketch XC sold for $1,381,250. And Jean Paul Lemieux’s 1973 painting Les Citadens went for $1,081,250.
A second Riopelle from 1958, Lances, sold for $871,250. While Alex Colville’s lovely 1952 work Two Boys Playing sold for $921,250. Arthur Lismer’s Tugs and Troop Carrier, Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia (painted in 1921), brought $781,250, while A.Y. Jackson’s November, Georgia Bay (1920) sold for $631,250.
E.J. Hughes has long been popular
The previous record price for an E.J. Hughes painting was $1.593 million for his 1949 painting The Post Office at Courtenay, B.C.
Though Fish Boats, Rivers Inlet hit a high-water mark, work by Hughes has been increasing in value for years. A bid of $1.14 million won the 1948 Hughes painting Coastal Boats Near Sidney, B.C., at auction in 2011. A mural by Hughes located at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre is now estimated at more than $3 million.
Prices being paid for Hughes works have been climbing since his death in 2007. In 2000, a Vancouver auction house sold a 1970 Hughes painting, Harbour Scene, Nanaimo, for a then-record $105,750.
Hughes, a Vancouver native, moved to Victoria to live with his parents in 1946. His first painting after the move was Fish Boats, Rivers Inlet, was one of a half-dozen “dark” paintings made by Hughes. Painted before his relocation to Shawnigan Lake in 1951.
That era of his work now seems to have the most commercial appeal. “Those ones he did are recognized as really essential items,” said Robert Amos, who profiled Hughes in the new biography E. J. Hughes Paints Vancouver Island.