Can you identify this artist?
November 9, 2013 6:34 AM   Subscribe

I just bought this nice painting and would like to know who painted it. Here's a close-up.

I'm pretty sure it's watercolour on canvas covered board. It's matted and framed and no signature is visible. Size: 15" x 21". It looks strangely familiar, I would really like to know the artist.

posted by crazylegs to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This will be a very difficult question to answer, I think.

But the reason it looks vaguely familiar is because it is riffing on the style of the Group of Seven.
posted by 256 at 6:51 AM on November 9, 2013

So, for starters, it looks like this is a painting of Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada. Here's another painting of the same view. Here's another one with almost precisely the same view, different style (scroll halfway down that page). Here are some photos. Here are a bunch of other watercolors of the lake, many from the same perspective. It's kind of an (I hate this word:) iconic view. Among those Google images I'm not seeing anything that has a style similar to your picture, which to me looks a kind of Oriental/Art Deco blend. I'm not quite seeing the Group of Seven style there. But I didn't scroll past the first couple of hundred results, so keep going, you might find it there.
posted by beagle at 7:31 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I work at a Canadian fine art auction house, but IANYCFAA.

Beagle has the subject matter right on the money, and I'd agree that it doesn't look much like anything by any of the members of the Group (only member that I can think of who painted a lot of watercolours was Carmichael and they don't look much like that. Or any other major Canadian artist that I'm familiar with.

If you're feeling a little adventurous you could always take the painting out of the frame to check around the edge of the paper (that's obscured by the mat) or the back of the sheet for any identifying information. If it's papered over the back there might be a label or some sort of marking on a backing underneath. Of course, getting the painting back in the frame without the right equipment is a little tricky. (If it's held in place with nails, and I don't have access to a framing stapler, I usually slide a metal drywall spatula under the nail to protect the back of the work and tap the nails back in gently)

Good luck!
posted by rhooke at 9:22 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

It is likely the subject (Lake Louise) that looks familiar, rather than the artist.
My guess is that it is either an amateur work or a painting done to sell to tourists.
The cake icing colors and the feathery style of the Douglas fir on the left are giveaways.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:46 PM on November 9, 2013

Response by poster: I took the painting out of the frame and discovered a signature: "M. L. Macpherson." I can't find anything online about this artist so assume he or she is/was not prominent. Anybody heard of this person?
posted by crazylegs at 2:19 PM on November 9, 2013

I'm not turning up anything on McPherson either. It's a nice painting, though. Just enjoy it!
posted by beagle at 3:59 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agreed that there is a heavy Chinese/Japanese influence, see the "abstract landscape" mode, particularly in the more distant mountains. There's also a formalism to the framing that is similar to that mode [1, 2]. Here's one using the bright, unnatural colors; here's another using the banded shading on the mountains. That's probably what's speaking to you.

I say it's a decent work by an unknown amateur and you should enjoy it for itself.
posted by dhartung at 5:07 PM on November 9, 2013

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