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Emily Carr painting sells for $3.361 million at auction

The sale price for Cordova Drift was only $32,000 below Carr’s 1928-30 painting The Crazy Stair.
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Emily Carr's 1931 seaside forest scene, "Cordova Drift," is seen in an undated handout image. The mature-era canvas hammered down for nearly $3.4 million at a digital auction on Wednesday evening. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heffel Fine Art Auction House, Ward Bastian

Emily Carr’s 1931 painting Cordova Drift sold for $3,361,260 at a Heffel auction in Vancouver on Dec. 1, the second highest price ever paid for a work by the B.C. artist.

Another painting, Paul Kane’s 1855 oil Assiniboine Hunting Buffalo, sold for $3,241,250, while Tom Thomson’s Spring, 1916 went for $1,621,250, doubling its pre-auction estimate.

The sale was conducted through Heffel’s “digital showroom,” with bidders watching online rather than attending in-person. But it still posted strong results, with $21 million in sales for only 80 lots.

Cordova Drift depicts a natural seaside scene near Victoria with lots of movement in the forest and water. The sale price fell only $32,000 below Carr’s 1928-30 painting The Crazy Stair, which sold for $3,393,000 at a Heffel auction in Toronto in 2013.

Four other Carrs were sold in the auction, including the 1912 painting Maude Island Totem, which went for $841,250. (All prices include Heffel’s buyer’s premium, which is 20 per cent.)

Other highlights included Alex Colville’s 1981 acrylic Night Walk, which sold for $901,250, and Lawren Harris’s 1929-30 oil-on-board sketch From Sentinel Pass Above Moraine Lake, Rocky Mts., which sold for $691,250.

Arthur Lismer’s 1926 painting Mountain and Lake sold for $601,250, the same price realized by the Jack Bush abstract Sway #1.

Other B.C. painters with strong sales were Gordon Smith, whose June 99 went for $217,250, Takao Tanabe, whose West Coast 2/88: Eucott Bay sold for $169,250, and B.C. Binning, whose Two Ships Cruising in Fine Water sold for $55,250.