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Painting tied to Manhattan Project to be auctioned

A 74-year-old painting depicts the Canadian mine that produced uranium for the world's first atomic bomb. -AFP

Wed, Nov 14, 2012

OTTAWA - A 74-year-old painting depicting the Canadian mine that produced uranium for the world's first atomic bomb will go under the hammer in Toronto on November 22, set to fetch up to Can$300,000 (S$367,000).

A.Y. Jackson, an artist from the Group of Seven landscape collective, painted Radium Mine after visiting the Northwest Territories mine on the eastern shore of Great Bear Lake in 1937, just before the Second World War began.

The outdoor enthusiast and adventurer had been invited by his friend and prospector Gilbert LaBine. He headed west on a train and boarded LaBine's cramped float plane in Edmonton to the site.

Uranium from the mine was Canada's contribution to the Manhattan Project, which was developing the world's first nuclear bomb.

The Jackson painting is "historically significant," according to Heffel Fine Art's catalogue entry for the auction.

"At its heart is the story of two exceptional Canadians - a gifted artist and a bold entrepreneur - linked by their thirst for adventure, imagination and love of their nation," it added.

The painting has been held in the LaBine family's private collection since it was painted 74 years ago.

The 28- by 26-inch (71- by 66-centimeter) oil on canvas painting shows a bird's eye view of the Eldorado Mine about 440 kilometers (273 miles) northwest of Yellowknife, as Jackson himself would have seen it upon landing.

"It was a grand trip," Jackson wrote in a letter to his niece Naomi in Montreal. "Saw five hundred thousand lakes this morning. You just couldn't keep looking at them, hour after hour.

"Great Bear is surrounded by big rocky hills, open patches of spruce in places, but no farm lands... Expect to be around three weeks, but have to get out before freeze-up or stay another six weeks."

During his stay, Jackson wandered the rolling low hills, taking only the mine manager's dog with him for company as he sketched the landscape for works that would be painted later in his studio in Toronto.

This painting is one of only three masterworks that resulted from the six weeks he spent at the camp. Another is held by the National Gallery of Canada.

A painting by Tom Thomson is also being sold by Joyner Waddington auction house in Toronto on November 26, and Sotheby's will auction a painting by the Group of Seven's founder Lawren Harris on November 27.

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