Lot Sale Results

Lawren Stewart Harris

Lawren Stewart Harris

Lawren Stewart Harris
Canadian, Impressionist & Modern Art Live auction

Lot # 144

Lawren Stewart Harris
ALC BCSFA CGP FCA G7 OSA RPS TPG 1885 - 1970 Canadian

Early Morning on the Batchawana River, Algoma
oil on board circa 1918
signed and on verso signed, inscribed "2" (circled), and with the Dominion Gallery Inventory #B1418 and D5050 and stamped Dominion Gallery, Montreal
10 1/2 x 14 in  26.7 x 35.6cm

Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Warwick Gallery Ltd., Vancouver
Sold sale of Canadian Art, Joyner Fine Art, May 14, 2002, lot 50E
Property from an Important Private Collection to Benefit a Charitable Foundation

Paul Duval, Lawren Harris: Where the Universe Sings, 2011, page 157, reproduced page 185
James King, Inward Journey: The Life of Lawren Harris, 2012, page 104

On verso titled: Early Morn. on the Batchewan [sic] River, Algoma by Harris and on the Dominion Gallery label as Batchewan [sic] River, Algoma, Early Morning

In spring of 1918, Lawren Harris went to the Algoma District, northeast of Lake Superior, with art patron Dr. James MacCallum to recover after his experiences during the war, and the deaths of his brother and his compatriot Tom Thomson. In Algoma, it was as if he had discovered a treasure trove of painting places. This was a wilder landscape than he had previously experienced – with ravines and canyons cut through by streams and waterfalls opening into ponds and lakes, towering granite rock formations, and trees that varied from hardwood to evergreen spruce and pine. Harris called it “a veritable paradise for the creative adventurer in paint in the Canadian North…We found that there was a wild richness and clarity of colour in the Algoma woods, which made the colour in southern Ontario seem grey and subdued.”

He immersed himself in nature and said that the experience was like “opening a Pandora’s box of pictorial possibilities.” He spoke of “sweet, woodsy sounds” and “crisp, clear air.” By the end of this trip, Harris felt revitalized. He moved away from his previous elegant winter paintings to works that reflected the raw nature of this terrain, and he began to use thicker paint and more vigorous brush-strokes. Rather than choosing a decorative approach, he began to place more emphasis on the underlying structure of the landscape.

As Algoma restored Harris’s soul, he hatched a plan to share it with the painting colleagues that would become the Group of Seven. In the fall of 1918, he organized another trip there, arranging with the Algoma Central Railway for the use of a boxcar. On September 10, Harris and MacCallum, along with J.E.H. MacDonald and Frank Johnston, departed Toronto in CPR boxcar 10557, which was outfitted with bunks, a stove, a sink, a kitchen bench, lamps, lanterns and food supplies. During this trip, they were recorded as being stationed at Agawa River, Hubert and Batchawana; they had the use of a three-wheel handcar to take short trips up and down the track, and a canoe to traverse the waterways. They explored and painted by day, and at night had lively discussions in the boxcar. They stayed until the first week of October, then returned to Toronto. A.Y. Jackson joined them on their autumn 1919 Algoma boxcar trip, which culminated in a week-long stay at Batchawana. He related that their nightly talks included not only artistic subjects, but ranged “from Plato to Picasso, to Madame Blavatsky and Mary Baker Eddy.” Harris instigated many discourses on philosophy and metaphysics, subjects growing in importance to him.

Autumn in Algoma was a stunning sight – masses of gold and red rolled through the hillsides, contrasted by dark evergreens. Harris captures these colours expertly in this richly pigmented work, which also shows dusky hills glowing with pinks and purples and backlit by the pale light of dawn. The river is so still that reflections are mostly clear, with only some lines and breaks in the mirrored images denoting movement in the water. Painting out of doors in Algoma demanded quick decisions, seizing on the most important pictorial elements and eliminating extraneous details. In Early Morning on the Batchawana River, Algoma, Harris’s composition is an expertly balanced unity of sky, land and water. The rhythm of the rolling contours of the hills is pierced by the vertical lines of the solemn evergreens, which are in turn contrasted to the fluid, light green bushes dancing on the shore. Finally, the tranquil waters of the river give a dreamy, contemplative tone to this reverent depiction of dawn in Algoma.

Estimate: $150,000 ~ $250,000 CAD

Sold For: $157,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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