Fall 2016 - 3rd Session Live auction
Lot # 122
Lawren Stewart Harris
ALC BCSFA CGP FCA G7 OSA RPS TPG 1885 - 1970 Canadian
Colin Range - Mountain Sketch LV
oil on board circa 1924
signed and on verso signed, titled and inscribed with the Doris Mills inventory #7/55 and "XI" and with the Dominion Gallery inventory #C1816
12 x 15 in 30.5 x 38.1cm
Acquired directly from the Artist by Dominion Gallery, Montreal, February 1955
Acquired from the above by a Private Collection, Montreal, April 1956
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 #7/55, location noted as the Studio Building
Lawren Harris notebook, 1954 (4-2), Library and Archives Canada, MG30 D208, Vol. 4, pages 25 - 28
A.Y. Jackson, A Painter’s Country: The Autobiography of A.Y. Jackson, 1976, pages 106 and 107
In 1924, when Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson explored the mountains of Jasper National Park, they hiked remarkable distances in pursuit of subjects that they found inspiring. They wished to get up high and away from the developed areas. In the main valley near Jasper townsite and the railway’s fancy hotels, Jackson wrote that they “did not find the landscapes...very interesting,” so they walked from Jasper to Maligne Lake —a distance of 46 kilometres—and stayed a few days with the warden. They had arranged for their gear to be brought up the valley that they had explored on horseback, and once it arrived, they borrowed an 18-foot canoe, which they loaded with supplies and paddled to the far end of the lake.
Maligne is the largest naturally occurring lake in the Canadian Rockies, so Jackson and Harris would need to paddle a distance of 22 kilometres to reach the Coronet Creek drainage at its south end. While there, they camped on a gravel beach, one of the few flat spots along the lake’s shore, and stayed for several days, using this as a base for shorter trips. They climbed high up to Coronet Glacier, where they painted side by side, and then into the surrounding mountains of the Colin Range, where they found a vast panorama of summits in every direction, which Jackson called “a kind of cubist’s paradise full of geometric formations, all waiting for the abstract painter.”
Harris’s sketch, titled simply Colin Range – Mountain Sketch LV, captures the feeling of the region well, with his smooth brushwork showing the pale grey limestone so characteristic of this place. He has painted an expansive view, looking out over a series of sharp, tilted peaks from a vantage point high above the treeline at the crest of an exposed bluff. Maligne Lake itself would be some distance below in the valley, which is steeply sloped, with most of the shoreline angling down into the lake.
“It was not easy to establish a camp there,” Jackson would later recall. “We could find no level ground for the tent.” It was here, high in the Colin Range, that the incident occurred of Jackson sliding out of the tent, still wrapped tightly in his bedroll, and ending up “20 feet below, pulled up against a rock, sound asleep,” as Harris amusingly relates. It was a story often repeated. They had adventures, and misadventures, and through them all Harris found his relationship with the mountains changing rapidly.
At first, as he painted in the Athabasca Valley and along the railway line, his approach was comparable to the approach to sketching that he had used in Algoma. Soon, however, the mountains would demand greater things from him. He had to select and define his subjects, to leave out features and refine those he wished to paint. Harris stated, “On all our camping and sketching trips we explored each region for those particular areas where the form and character and spirit reached its summation. In those areas the character is most pronounced—the form most opulent or austere—the spirit most pervasive. We became increasingly aware that while the artist must select his subject, determine how it is to go within the 4 sides of his sketch or canvas, what he must eliminate and what he should emphasize and how he should reorganize the various factors in order to make it a unity of expression. Yet he must not impose some preconceived or borrowed idea on it because that acts as a barrier between him and nature.” From a vast sea of mountaintops, Harris has selected a few on which to focus, yet he still conveys the idea of the fuller panorama. Peaks run off the picture plane, shadows tell us that mountains loom behind us, and the feeling in this work is one of being very high up in an endless stretch of the alpine.
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: $400,000 ~ $600,000 CAD
Sold For: $472,000.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)