Fall 2016 - 3rd Session Live auction
Lot # 142
Lawren Stewart Harris
ALC BCSFA CGP FCA G7 OSA RPS TPG 1885 - 1970 Canadian
Near Coldwell, Lake Superior, North Shore
oil on panel circa 1923
signed and on verso signed twice, titled and inscribed "Bess Harris Collection" / "BHC 60" / "92" and with the Doris Mills inventory #2/99
10 1/2 x 13 3/4 in 26.7 x 34.9cm
Jerrold Morris Gallery, Toronto
By descent to the present Private Collection, Toronto
Doris Mills, L.S. Harris Inventory, 1936, Algoma Sketches, Group 2, titled as Valley, catalogue #2/99, location noted as the Studio Building
James King, Inward Journey: The Life of Lawren Harris, 2012, page 185
Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Art Museum, London, Ontario
Lawren Harris first saw the north shore of Lake Superior at the end of his fall 1921 Algoma trip, when he and A.Y. Jackson took a side trip on the Canadian Pacific Railway, ending up in Rossport, Ontario, where they remained for a few days. They were exploring, looking for new vistas, and in the Rossport and Port Coldwell regions, they would find them in abundance. Harris in particular found the landscape there to his liking and would depict it in some of his most iconic and best-known works.
This energetic Lake Superior work was executed near Coldwell, a location that would reappear prominently in a number of works by Harris as well as those of his sketching companions from the Group of Seven on their joint trips to Lake Superior. Harris would visit the region again in 1922 and 1923, then every consecutive year from 1925 through 1928, exploring the barren, fire-swept regions and the vastness of the skies over Lake Superior. These qualities in the landscape helped him to explore and express the ideas of mysticism that were becoming an increasingly important part of his life and a more evident aspect of his art.
Near Coldwell, Lake Superior, North Shore seems likely to have been painted earlier rather than later in these visits, probably dating from before 1925. It has some traits in common with his Algoma works in the very near depth of field, the variety of colour, and the treatment of the trees. Harris’s palette is rich and beautifully cool, with a blend of velvety purples and deep, almost black greens highlighted with orange and yellow. Ironically, though the sky constitutes only a tiny, softly greyed portion of the scene, it is strongly felt—the vastness of the Superior country is implicit. And if we consider our place as viewers in relation to the work, we find ourselves placed very high, on a small ledge, looking out over a scene that becomes less distinct as it recedes away from us.
It was here at Lake Superior that Harris found the open spaces he was seeking and here where he began to expand his view, with words such as “above” and “panorama” finding their way into his titles. He has not yet begun to abstract, to smooth and winnow, yet the idea of vastness and space is strongly implied in this work, and is conveyed, for the most part, through the colours of the purple hills in the distance. From the foreground to the far view, the colour swoops from pale to deep to pale again, adding to the feeling of movement and space in the work. In this scene we also see Harris beginning to refine his brushwork. There is very little impasto, with the yellow in the near-ground trees being the exception to this. Hints of Harris’s ethereal, pared down landscapes can be found in this work. As Fred Housser wrote, “Artists in all ages have painted nature from a spirit of devotion toward her but Harris paints the Lake Superior landscape out of devotion to the life of the soul and makes it feel like the country of the soul. All of his landscapes are large and lofty in conception. Forms are moulded and felt without a suggestion of sensuality.”
While one could certainly argue that there is a degree of sensuality in this work, Housser’s description of Harris’s moulding of the landscape and his feeling for it is apt, for this work conveys the undulations, dips and rises in the land well, even though we cannot really see them. Harris was a careful observer of nature and, as a result, was able to convey the practical facts of geography, climate, temperature, distance, forest growth and so forth without resorting to copying from nature. He provides instead the visual essence of things, which in works such as Near Coldwell, Lake Superior, North Shore conveys much, much more.
We thank Lisa Christensen, author of A Hiker’s Guide to the Rocky Mountain Art of Lawren Harris and director of Heffel’s Calgary office, for contributing the above essay.
Estimate: $125,000 ~ $175,000 CAD
Sold For: $271,400.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)