In 2009, Earls Court Gallery committed to regularly offering historically significant Canadian art. The Gallery designated a gallery space that is affectionally call the “Lower Gallery,” since it is 8” down from our main contemporary space.
The Gallery has always offered historical Canadian art, but it was not until the Lower Gallery that we had the opportunity to highlight it properly. Previously, collectors would find Canadian art treasures on the floor of my office, in the backroom, and sometimes even hanging in our bathrooms (a spectacular place to meditate on art!). So, with the new gallery space created in 2012, the Gallery was able to highlight them in literally better light.
Concurrently to the new space, the Gallery kept an extensive database that recorded all the artworks that has passed through our doors. Sometimes, I even allowed artworks that were sold to linger on our website just to share in the discovery.
In 2011, the Gallery was contacted by an art historian Birgitta Unger-Richter who was investigating Ottilie Palm-Jost, and was located in Germany. She had found images on our website that would support her own research. Unger-Richter was building a comprehensive catalogue that would highlight and list as many artworks by Ottilie Palm-Jost and her husband Josef Jost.
Ottilie Palm-Jost (1878-1961) was a Canadian impressionist artist. She was born in Hamilton, Ontario. She helped to found the Hamilton Art Students League in 1898 and worked as a newspaper illustrator for the Hamilton Herald, the Hamilton Spectator and the forerunner of the Globe and Mail. Ottilie moved to Germany in 1911. In 1913, she married the sculptor Josef Jost. Ottilie painted murals and other impressionist art in Munich until her death in 1961.
In return for supplying images from our database for the publication, the historian sent us a copy of the book, “Palm-Jost: Eine Kunstlerverbindung zwischen Alter Welt und Neuer Welt,” as well as gave the gallery for credit for the contribution. (Books like these create the foundation of our art library.)
This interaction of sharing art knowledge, is what brings me to the story of a current drawing that has just recently arrived at the Gallery.
Untitled drawing by Ottilie Palm-Jost
Provenance: The drawing originates from a local Hamilton collector that I worked closely with over the last few years. I had always admired this small drawing of the girl with dog in her hallway. It was not until her passing this past March that the family brought it to the Gallery to find the drawing another worthy home.
With each new acquisition, I search the internet for comparable sales, and possibly reoccurring subjects and/or subject matters to learn more about the drawing, as well as come up with a fair market value. Ottilie Palm-Jost, though born in Hamilton and made significant contributions to the fabric of Hamilton art scene, did leave in 1911. It is believed that the quarrel with then fiancé and Hamilton artist John Sloan Gordon is what pushed Ottilie to move to Germany with sculptor Josep Jost. From a more recent living source, it is rumored that artist Hortense Gordon, who did marry John Sloan Gordon, was the true cause of the broken engagement.
John Sloan Gordon (1868-1940) "Mitchell Street, Back Haven Fife" June 23, 1883 Watercolour 5" x 7" $300
When the internet only turns up a few results, I turn back to our trusty internal database, as well as our library.
Knowing that the “Palm-Jost” book graced our shelves, I pulled it out and started at the back. Indexes are perfect for such research. Author Birgitta Unger-Richter included a vast breath of artworks featured in a thumbnail format. These small images clearly exemplifying that there was not enough room for all of them to be published in large format, but are equally important.
IT IS HERE I FOUND IT!
“Portrat Walfriede im roten Kleid mit Hund, um 1925” Private collection Munich
It is an completed oil painting done with the same girl with her dog. This indicates that the drawing I have is a preliminary finished sketch.
From here, I start to investigate the rest of the book for more visuals and information; keep in mind the whole book is in German. I stop to admire the photographic portraits of Ottilie Palm Jost and her husband, and then the photo I would have never thought existed is highlighted.
The caption in the book reads “Ottilie Palm-Jost: Walfriede Jost as Modell mit Hund, Um 1925”.
Working through my broken knowledge of German that is mostly based on Dutch, I can determine that Walfriede is the Jost’s daughter. But it gets better. Over the right shoulder of young Walfriede, you can see the drawing that I now hold in my possession.
So, how did this drawing end up in Hamilton?
The photograph is dated 1925. We know that Ottilie Palm-Jost lived in Germany permanently after leaving in 1911. In fact, I know she remained there the rest of her life with the exception of a brief period in 1951, when she returned to Hamilton. Did the drawing come with her then? I do know that she actively produced artworks that were highlighted in Canadian exhibitions, such as the Royal Canadian Academy Annual Exhibitions. Furthermore, since Ottilie’s passing in 1961 various retrospective exhibits have highlighted a breath of her artworks; for instance, at Beckett Gallery, Hamilton 1992, retrospective.
Another precious resource, not found on the internet.
So… when and how did this drawing come back to Hamilton? An answer is gone with its pervious keeper, but sure was a pleasurable discovery.