Canadian Modernist & Brutalist Design Sale

On-line Only Sale

Online auction will start June 21st, 2019
and run through July 18 (the date of the sale)

For further information contact Abington Auction Gallery at (954) 900-4869 or

Abington Auction Gallery of Fort Lauderdale, FL is pleased to announce the sale of a Canadian modernist collection, spanning c.1940 through c.1990. The sale includes jewelry, pottery, paintings and sculpture exclusively designed and created by Canadian artisans. Abington expects the sale to appeal to all levels of interest, from museum quality acquisition opportunities, one of a kind pieces and rare pieces for the advanced collector, and decorative pieces for the new collector.

 The collection was amassed over a period of 11 years by a collector who was first inspired by a brutalist design pin by Guy Vidal (Lot 1), the very first purchase in 2008. The collector then began researching Vidal’s work and soon discovered through Vidal’s designs that Canada had its own renaissance in modern design, beginning in the 1930s. While the modernist design movement is more commonly associated with the US and European nations, this collection offers a glimpse into the equally striking and creative period of Canada. (Modern furniture was also produced in Canada during this period, but such makers are not represented in this collection.) Every province of Canada contributed its talents, with the population centers Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia taking the lead. By offering his collection for sale, the owner hopes to inform, educate, and strike further interest in the Canadian modernist movement.





Walter Schluep abstract brooch in 18kt yellow gold with 2 diamonds in architectural setting


Jewelry by Canadian makers Guy Vidal and Robert Larin comprise the bulk of the brutalist designs. Vidal and Larin were prolific producers, creating sculptural and abstract designer jewelry. Each artisan used a special alloy of pewter and the lost wax technique to mould pieces. The piece was then hand finished, plated with a finish and then lacquered. The result was a beautiful piece of wearable sculpture that was affordable and durable. Their jewelry is reminiscent of some Scandinavian jewelry designers, notably Tapani Vanhatalo and Jorma Laine. With numerous rare pieces by Vidal and Larin being offered, this sale presents buyers with an opportunity to acquire some of their best work.

 Vidal attended l’École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal and completed his Master's in Fine Arts at the University of Bloomington, Indiana in 1962.  He returned to Canada in 1964 and established his workshop in Saint-Adèle-en-Haut, Quebec. Vidal created some of his most exciting designs in the 1960s and 1970s. They ranged from naturalistic to abstract and bimorphic. The very earliest examples (many one of a kind or experimental designs) were hand signed with a black pen. Later pieces used the GV “dinosaur” impressed mark or a tri-fold cluster mark. Vidal’s work was extensively exhibited and won numerous awards and accolades. A nice example of Vidal’s many designs is (Lot 36), the ‘beginning of life’ bracelet.

Vidal’s closest competitor, Robert Larin, was born and based in Montreal, Quebec on rue Papineau. Robert Larin was creating jewelry as early as 1968.  An interesting note about his studio was that he employed about 25 workers, many of whom were deaf.  Like Vidal, most of Larin's jewelry was cast in pewter. After casting, each was filed by hand then oxidized or plated with silver or gold, and hand polished. Most pieces are signed ‘Robert Larin’ or ‘RLA’ in tiny block letters (which stands for Robert Larin Atelier [workshop]). Some of Larin’s pieces were unsigned but the collecting community has confidence in his attribution due to his signature style. One such example of an unsigned piece is Lot 234. Larin’s production ceased around 1972.

Other jewelry makers in this collection are Hans Gehrig (Lot 37), Walter Schluep, Nancy Meek (Pocock), Micheline de Passille and Yves Sylvestre, Bernard Chaudron, Rafael Alfandary, and rare makers such as Pat Hunt (Lot 126) and George Dancy. In particular, Schluep’s amazing designs used precious metals, pearls, diamonds and semi-precious stones. This sale offers some beautiful Schluep examples, some of which are executed in silver and 18kt gold (Lots 3, 17,177).  Another show-stopper is a rare collaboration brooch made in 1935 by Bailey Leslie, a potter, and the Nancy Meek, a jeweler. The brooch consists of a ceramic ram’s head made by Bailey 1935 which is set into a hand hammered copper body signed by Nancy Meek (Lot 287). The piece is signed by both artists, dated, and notated. This Lot is expected to attract keen interest as a museum quality piece as it exemplifies a melding of talents by two leaders in the Canadian arts & crafts and modernist movements.

 The enamel work of the Micheline de Passille and Yves Sylvestre is also well represented. Included are important early examples of the couple’s enamel on silver jewelry such as Lot 322. Their earliest enamel works were hand painted, enameled on both sides and hand signed. A great mini-collection of these early enamels from the 1960s are presented in group lots. Many appear ethereal, almost alien-like (Lot 84), and tribal.  Another special grouping is from the 'les fleurs laurentide' series, first created in 1967 (Lot 345). This series depict native wild flowers of the Laurentian Mountain region near St. Adele, Quebec. Each one has a white background and detailed hand painted flowers. The les fleurs laurentide’ series is also meaningful as this region is where the couple made their home. Rare examples of their enamel on copper plates and chargers are also offered for sale. Later commercial pieces were equally beautiful.  Mass produced pieces have a stamped signature. Several group lots of their best commercially produced pieces are offered.

 Enamel on copper works were of great interest to a number of other artists during this period. Examples of other types of enamel on copper objects by makers such as Jules Perrier (Lot 330) and Pierrette LeClaire (Lots 45, 327) abound, especially large chargers.

Rafael Alfandary is another highly collected jeweler from Canada. He emigrated from Israel to Toronto, Ontario in 1970. While learning English he designed a piece of jewelry as a thank-you to his teacher. Due to Alfandary’s unique use of kinetic design, hammered bronze and copper renderings, and glass cabochons demand grew. He liked using Murano glass to give his pieces an airy brilliance. Thus, it was very challenging to match cabochons of the same color for the multiple cabochon necklaces. He estimated he had an array of colors numbering over 1200. His pieces were in vogue, with celebrities such as Margaret Trudeau, Lorne Green, Liberace, Muhammad Ali, Redd Foxx and Paul Anka wearing his work. The performing artist known as Prince once wore Rafael’s work during a People’s Choice Awards acceptance speech. This sale includes a massive Alfandary one-of-a-kind piece (Lot 227), a runway type collar necklace with a triple kinetic pendant.

  Yet another jeweler, Bernard Chaudron was born in France and immigrated to Quebec, Canada in the 1950s. He established a workshop in Val-David, Quebec, and started creating modernist style jewelry, frequently using the lost wax technique. Most of his pieces are brass, although he also worked with pewter and precious metals. To accent his pieces he often used a colored resin enameling, and also made reversible pieces. He is best known for jewelry from the early 1960s and 1970s. This sale offers a number of his pieces, including a beautiful reversible necklace in silver and enamel, as well as a silver collar necklace (Lot 16).


 Similar to the jewelers, some of Canada’s best-known and prolific potters were located on both coasts. Another can’t be missed highlight of the sale will be an important collection of pottery including life-size mushroom sculptures (naturalistic replicas) by the husband and wife team of Ernst and Alma Lorenzen. There are also numerous pottery vases by the Lorenzens. Alma and Ernst Lorenzen are internationally recognized for their precisely rendered from nature and beautifully glazed pottery mushrooms. A fine example is Lot 83. 



Ernst & Alma Lorenzen pottery mushroom 'Collybia Velutipes'

Complementing the museum quality Lorenzen mushrooms, this sale includes the historically important original watercolors painted by Dinamarca Lorenzen-King (daughter of Ernst and Alma) for the book “The Lorenzen Collection,” published in 1985 (Lot 75). Dinamarca’s copy of the book is framed and included with the watercolors. It is hand inscribed and dedicated to her parents. This was the same year that the New York Times took notice Lorenzens’ work:


Rare Ernst & Alma Lorenzen Ceramic Faces Bowl

There is a vast array of vases by the Lorenzens, of all shapes, sizes and glaze techniques (example Lot 127). Of particular note is a rare and important modernist Lorenzen vase with hand sculpted and applied faces (Lot 109). Other pottery makers include Kjeld and Erica Deichmann (example Lot 96), with a rare bust made by Erica in 1938 (Lot 216), Susan and Theo Harlander (including a monumental vase Lot 342), vases and ceramic jewelry by Jarko Zavi, important large vases by Thomas (Tommy) Kakinuma (Lots 193, 194), rare and important examples by Alice M. Hagen (Lots 85, 95, 156)), Peter Rupchan (Lot 19) whose humble history as a pottery reminds one of George Ohr (the famed eccentric American potter), Krystyna and Konrad Sadowski, Olea Davis, and others.

Rounding out the sale will be paintings and sculpture by Canadian mid-century artists, the best of which are modernist iceberg paintings by Anthony Law (Lots 210, 211).  Sculpture is represented by Yves Trudeau including plaques and a modernist ceramic sculpture done in 1957 (Lot 174), May Marx, an impressive aluminum sculpture by brutalist sculptor Ivan Sarossy (Lot 343), and a bust of mother and child by Jarko Zavi.



The name Lorenzen is synonymous with mid-twentieth-century Canadian art potters. Their unique style and designs are recognized both nationally and internationally. They are Canada's equivalent of the potters of St. Ives and other great clay crafts people of the mid 20th century (along with the Deichmanns, another husband and wife team which are represented in this sale).

 Ernst Lorenzen, with his Scandinavian aesthetic, and Alma, with her artistic flair and vision, worked together from 1949.  Potters go where the clay is rich and abundant and so the Lorenzens were drawn to Lantz in Nova Scotia, home of the famous Shaw Brickworks.  The Shaw family was great patrons and supporters of the Lorenzens and helped them to establish a pottery works which created some of the most recognizable art pottery objects in Canada.  The available clay and raw materials sourced in Lantz and throughout Nova Scotia, including on Sable Island, allowed the Lorenzens to produce objects which were immediately recognizable with their red clay glaze and Lorenzen signature.

The work of Alma & Ernst Lorenzen, from their world famous mushrooms to pottery dishes, candle holders, decanters and other interesting forms,  shows an artistic combination of both the American and Danish aesthetic.  Their brilliant glazing technique with its wide-ranging use of colour is on full display in the production of their world famous mushrooms (for which the Lorenzens are most notable). These mushrooms, correctly identified by their scientific classification, were sculpted based on field research.  Ernst & Alma would make true life drawings and watercolours of the mushrooms in their natural habitat and then create the individual mushroom glazes in the correct hues to produce lifelike copies of those seen in the wild.

 Below is an excerpt from the catalogue from an exhibition of the works of Alma and Ernst Lorenzen which was held at St. Mary's University Art Gallery, Halifax in November 1971.

"Lorenzen pottery has received awards at Rockefeller Centre, NY (1952) and the Canadian Ceramic exhibitions.  Their work was displayed in the Canadian exhibit at the German Industries Fair, Berlin, September 1964; and the 1965 International Arts and Crafts Fair, Florence, Italy.  Their work in the latter was part of a travelling exhibition that was shown around the world.  Among the recognition given to these potters was a grant from the Canada Council that enabled them to go to Europe for further study.

 They have made several collections of models of native mushrooms for clients in Toronto, New York, Norwalk, Connecticut and in Belgium.  Recently, similar collections have been made for the University of New York and Northwestern University (Evanston), to be used in the study of Biology.  These mushrooms models however are but a small part of the Lorenzens' activity and they are constantly experimenting with native minerals."

 The creation of the mushrooms led the Lorenzens to develop a wide variety of truly wonderful shapes and colours into their work.  This together with their use of materials such as sand, lava, ash from Mt. St. Helen's in Washington as well as native ores and minerals is why Alma & Ernst Lorenzen are recognized today as innovative leaders in the development of art pottery in Canada.

The on-line only sale will be listed on from June 21st, 2019 and will run through July 18, the date of the sale. For further information contact Abington Auction Gallery at (954) 900-4869 or


Research for this article included the following: