Roberts Gallery Blog
Roberts Gallery Blog


An exquisite large study like J. W. Beatty’s Trees in Winter offers the best of both worlds: the intimacy of the 10-1/2 by 8-1/2 inch sketches Beatty and his friends Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven painted in the first decades of the twentieth century, and, simply, more to behold. In Pearl McCarthy’s review of Beatty’s last solo exhibition before his death, she noted the paintings were beyond likenesses. They matured in his imagination and in their larger sizes are, poignantly, “partly of the earth and partly of the brain.”[1] Trees in Winter is replete with this engagement.


Its orientation, late winter subject, and palette of white, Venetian red, cobalt blue with the slightest amount of Naples yellow evoke Tom Thomson’s arresting spring 1917, Path Behind Mowat Lodge in the Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Beyond that, each artist speaks for himself. Beatty’s exposure to the work of Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Seurat in Europe in the first decade of the twentieth century had negligible influence. Rather, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot provided the abiding effect that bolsters the contrast between Tom Thomson’s expressive painting and composition, and Beatty’s finely calibrated tones and subtly engaging compositions. Conscious of Corot and dedicated to considered viewing, Beatty developed a pure landscape composition that subtly absorbs the viewer instead of staggering them with graphic power. Trees in Winter is a suave display of Beatty’s expertise and fundamental contribution to the drive to paint the Canadian landscape distinctly and directly.


Gregory Humeniuk, Toronto

October 2021

[1] Pearl McCarthy, “Art and Artists,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (28 February 1938): 25.


J.W. (John William) Beatty (Canadian, Toronto, 30 May 1869-Toronto, 4 October 1941)

Trees in Winter

oil on pressed paperboard

33.7 x 26.7 cm (13-1/2 x 10-1/2 in. [approx.])


Signature and/or inscriptions

Signed b.l.: J. W. BEATTY



Walter D. Rutherford, Brantford, ON, 1936/1938

Private collection, Ontario

sale, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, Toronto, 25 November 2010, no. 115

Roberts Gallery, Toronto



No known exhibition history



No known publication history