James Wilson (J.W.) Morrice
(1865-1924)

Considered by the National Gallery of Canada as one of our nation’s first modernist painters, J.W. Morrice’s works “showed the beauty of the country in a way the world had never seen before (and) helped form the identity of Canadian art.” (www.gallery.ca) Born in Montreal in 1865, Morrice studied law at Osgoode Hall in Toronto and was called to the Ontario Bar before changing careers and moving to Paris to study art. During the early years of the twentieth century, he befriended and socialised with many important intellectuals and artists; in 1911-1912, he shared a studio with Henri Matisse in Tangiers and British author Somerset Maugham portrayed Morrice as a character in his books. During the First World War he worked as a Canadian Official War Artist. He traveled widely during his lifetime; his paintings reflect time spent throughout France, Venice, North Africa, and the Caribbean. Loosely influenced by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, Morrice painted many landscapes during the intermittent return trips he took to Canada throughout his life. He achieved great success as a painter during his lifetime and his works were included in important international exhibitions in London and Paris as well as many of the great European collections. After he died in Tunisia in 1924, his acclaim and influence in Canada continued to grow and today he is considered a pivotal figure in Canadian art. One of the first Canadian artists to achieve widespread acceptance abroad, Morrice was the only Canadian artist included in the “1900: Art at the Crossroads” exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 2000. His works are included in the permanent collections of many of the world’s greatest museums including the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and the Tate Gallery in London.

Though Morrice never returned to live in Canada, he visited his family every year from 1890 through 1914. His winter paintings of Quebec City are some of his very best works and are the focus of his Canadian landscapes. “The Ferry, Quebec” (1943), the only Morrice silkscreen produced by Sampson-Matthews, is based on the painting of the same name from 1907 now considered a treasure of the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. Painted with thin colours and muted tones to capture the moody atmosphere of Canadian winter, the image offers a view of the St. Lawrence River; the train station at Lévis is seen in the foreground and the cliff of Cape Diamond dominates the distance as a coal-powered ferry crosses the river gingerly through ice floes. Supervised by A.J. Casson, the silkscreen was made nearly twenty years after Morrice’s death.

Artwork for sale by James Wilson (J.W.) Morrice