The eclipsed success of André Lapine
Born in what is now Latvia and buried in Minden, artist André Lapine was a contemporary of members of the Group of Seven.
Yet Lapine is not nearly as famous as his contemporaries for shaking up the Canadian art world in the early 20th century.
Why is that?
Agnes Jamieson Gallery curator Laurie Carmount has a theory.
“He was very humble,” Carmount said in a talk at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre Jan. 21. “He wrote about how it was his wish to never be famous.”
The centre owns more than 100 Lapine works, some of which are currently on display in an exhibition entitled Eclipsed Success, which shows until Feb. 25.
Born into what was part of Russia in 1866, Lapine studied at the Imperial Academy of Petrograd, before spending years in France and Holland. In the latter, he was accepted into the prestigious St. Lucius Society.
In 1905, he and his wife immigrated to Canada, first settling in Manitoba and then moving to Toronto in 1907. Lapine became a successful commercial artist, doing work for the Eaton’s catalogue, among others, with his imagery appearing regularly in the Toronto Star. He was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Lapine was perhaps most famous for his realistic renderings of horses, something Carmount said may have been inspired by Russian folk art and storytelling.
“There is always this kind of dramatic, charging horse, entering or exiting in his artwork,” Carmount said. “This was strongly embedded in him from the beginning.”
It’s also possible that Lapine, with his thick accent, was difficult for many to understand.
Having visited the area previously, Lapine moved to Minden circa 1940. He was a friend of local physician, Dr. Agnes Jamieson, an amateur painter, and also local man Frank Welch, who would acquire 42 of Lapine’s works.
Upon his death, Welch would bequeath those artworks to the town of Minden and Jamieson, for whom Minden’s art gallery is named, then worked to create a public gallery to house Lapine’s art.
Lapine died in 1952 and is buried in the cemetery along Bobcaygeon Road.