Lot Sale Results

Lawren Stewart Harris

Lawren Stewart Harris

Lawren Stewart Harris
Canadian, Impressionist & Modern Art Live auction

Lot # 141

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

Lake Superior Country
oil on board 1922
signed and on verso signed, titled and inscribed with the Doris Mills inventory #4/30 / "H" / "80-5"
12 x 15 in  30.5 x 38.1cm

The Art Emporium, Vancouver
Acquired from the above by Geraldine Biely, Vancouver, 1973
A gift from the above to the Schara Tzedeck Synagogue, Vancouver, 2015

Doris Mills, L.S. Harris Inventory, 1936, Lake Superior Sketches, Group 4, listed and a drawing of this work illustrated by Hans Jensen, catalogue #30, location noted as the Studio Building
A.Y Jackson, A Painter’s Country: The Autobiography of A.Y. Jackson, 1958, page 46
Bess Harris and R.G.P. Colgrove, editors, Lawren Harris, 1969, reproduced page 116
James King, Inward Journey: The Life of Lawren Harris, 2012, pages 145 – 148

The northern shore of Lake Superior was a location of enormous significance for the artists who made up the Group of Seven. For instance, A.Y. Jackson wrote in his autobiography: “I know of no more impressive scenery in Canada for the landscape painter. There is a sublime order to it, the long curves of the beaches, the sweeping range of hills, and headlands that push out into the lake.” The artist most intensely impacted by this “sublime order,” however, was Lawren Harris.

Beginning in 1918, while still recovering from the personal collapse brought on by the losses within a year of Tom Thomson and his brother Howard (killed in action in World War I), Harris traveled to the area of Algoma, Ontario. The lush beauty of this area would inspire him to create many vivid and exceptional paintings. While the locale was ideal for many Group members who participated in the celebrated boxcar trips there, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frank Johnston especially, Harris’s response to the north shore of Superior was even more significant. Prior to his first visit to Superior with Jackson in 1921, a forest fire had recently moved through the area. What remained was a recovering land, punctuated by stark tree trunks and pared down to its essential forms. Judging by the marked change in Harris’s style in this period, this extreme, unalloyed landscape may have been what he sought imaginatively and spiritually as he slowly emerged from crisis.

Harris treated the north shore of Lake Superior in a way that is distinct from the work of his colleagues in the Group of Seven. In his sketches of this dramatic landscape, he forged a vocabulary of simplified forms, dramatic colour and a depth of space that has such deep resonance for so many Canadians. The structure of this particular painting is a series of planes receding into space, moving from a shaded foreground to a brilliantly lit middle ground and distant hills in deep shadow. The atmospheric effect in the upper left quadrant of the board is also a crucial detail. While the majority of the lines, shapes and brushwork of the composition move horizontally across the image, that cloud formation is the sole element that moves vertically. It lends a spiritual connotation to the image, implying either ascent from below or descent from above. Its position in the far distance suggests an aspirational joining of land and sky, often symbolic of body and spirit. “Spirit” is perhaps the central word for understanding Harris’s work at this juncture. His search had begun for ways to express the imaginative ideal of a place while describing its physical presence, and to engage with the interior states of the human experience while depicting the exterior states of nature.

The light in the painting is revelatory and dramatic, drawing attention to deep orange and gold and intense blues. The image has a profound stillness but is not quiet, the rich tones suggesting the power and magnificence of the landscape itself. Harris has no need for compositional tricks or flashy paint; rather he weds his subject and his means perfectly. There is a world of extraordinary possibilities in his Lake Superior Country, something that few painters before him saw.

Consignor proceeds from the sale of this lot will benefit the Schara Tzedeck Synagogue in Vancouver.

Estimate: $200,000 ~ $250,000 CAD

Sold For: $200,001.60 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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