Fall 2016 - 3rd Session Live auction
Lot # 121
Lawren Stewart Harris
ALC BCSFA CGP FCA G7 OSA RPS TPG 1885 - 1970 Canadian
Mount Odaray from Lake McArthur / Rocky Mountain Sketch CXXV
oil on board circa 1926 ~ 1928
signed and on verso signed, titled and inscribed with the Doris Mills inventory #7/126 and "250.00" on the Dominion Gallery label and with the Dominion Gallery inventory #A1414
12 x 15 in 30.5 x 38.1cm
Acquired directly from the Artist by Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Acquired from the above by a Private Collection, Montreal, March 1952
By descent to the present Private Collection, USA
Doris Mills, L.S. Harris Inventory, 1936, Rocky Mountain Sketches, Group 7, titled as "Mountain Sketch", catalogue #7/126, location noted as 28 Chatsworth Drive
Lawren Harris, Lawren Harris 1969, Library and Archives Canada, MG30 D208, Vol. 13, page 23
In Lawren Harris’s explorations of the mountains, he sought out remote and high alpine locations. We know that he stayed at the newly opened Lake O’Hara Lodge in Yoho National Park in July of both 1926 and 1928. In 1928, Mrs. Beatrice (Trixie) Harris and their son Howard signed the guest register along with Harris. Lawren P. Harris, their other son, joined them a few days later. Most often Harris would leave his family at the lodge and head off hiking up into the alpine. From the view in this sketch, we know that it was painted after Harris reached the shore of Lake McArthur, from which he is also known to have sketched the classic view seen in Lake McArthur, Rocky Mountains, in the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. From the main lakeshore trail, where he sat to paint Lake McArthur, Rocky Mountains, we see that he also continued further along goat paths and followed climber’s trails, and scrambled to the far shore of the lake on the southeast side, where he would be able to see this unusual view of Mount Odaray.
From this perspective, the two summits of Odaray are separated and defined, with Little Odaray nearest us and Odaray over its shoulder. The edge of Cathedral Mountain is shown on the right side of the work. A related sketch, titled simply Rocky Mountain Sketch, is in a private collection and is dated 1928. It is more stylized than our Mount Odaray from Lake McArthur / Rocky Mountain Sketch CXXV, suggesting that it may have been executed later. The middle-ground lakeshore area and patches of snow have been turned into rounded, hummocky hills. The peak itself has been smoothed, made consistent in colour, and it is shrouded in the aura-like light that Harris would soon come to use consistently. In contrast, Mount Odaray from Lake McArthur / Rocky Mountain Sketch CXXV is much more “on the spot,” in nature, and truer to the place that inspired it than Rocky Mountain Sketch, suggesting it was painted first.
It is very interesting to follow Harris’s path as he refined and abstracted his mountain works. He wrote: “All creative activity in the arts is an interplay of opposites. It is the union of these in a work of art that gives it vitality and meaning. If we view a scene—let us say a great mountain soaring into the sky—it may excite us, evoke an uplifted feeling within us. That is then an interplay of something we see outside of us with our inner response. The artist takes that response and its feelings and shapes it on canvas with paint so that when finished it contains the experience—uplifted mountain. In that picture then, there will be, if it is successful, a combination of many opposites—dark and light, depth and height, and so on. The chief of these will be a particular mountain, and the universal feeling of being uplifted, of aspiration. In that way the picture can become for us a highway of experiences between a particular thing and a universal feeling. When that happens, we also have an experience which is timeless.”
For Harris, his interaction with the particular through his hikes up into the mountains was essential to his ability to depict the universal. He rendered the rocks at McArthur Lake in an accurate buff-brown, captured the deep and uniquely rich colour of the lake, and included the patches of semi-permanent snow clinging to the shoreline. All this took time and contemplation to study. His reaction to scenes such as this remote and beautiful mountain lake would colour his “inner response,” and that, as he has eloquently described, was essential to the success of his works and to the timelessness of his art.
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: $500,000 ~ $700,000 CAD
Sold For: $590,000.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)