Quebec native Frederick S. Coburn made a respectable living as an illustrator in Antwerp from 1890 until the outbreak of WWI. Although based in Antwerp during this time, he unfailingly vacationed in Canada and spent several summers in the late 1890s with Maurice Cullen on the Beaupré Coast. It was Cullen who encouraged Coburn to relieve himself of a lucrative career as an illustrator in order to pursue painting full-time. After Coburn returned permanently to Quebec in 1914 he wrote to a friend, “I broke the sabbath yesterday by going out to the woods. . . (the first time in my life I painted on a Sunday). The day was so beautiful and the snow effects so unusual.” This was the first of many Sunday outings that Coburn would faithfully paint.
Unlike the Group of Seven’s deserted landscapes, Coburn was captivated by human activity and presence in nature. Sunday Outing is a bright, playful, and inviting winter scene, in which a couple refreshes themselves after church. Shadows stretch across the curved trail, gently reminding the conscientious to profit from the sun on short winter days. A loyal dog leaps ahead of the sturdy Canadian horse as he confidently draws his masters through the crisp air. Ever a keen observer of the equine companion, Coburn tenderly painted the horse’s hooves flinging powder snow behind him.