Lawren Stewart Harris
ALC BCSFA CGP FCA G7 OSA RPS TPG
1885 - 1970
Morin Island, Eclipse Sound, North Baffin Island, Arctic Painting XXXVI
oil on board, 1930
on verso signed three times, titled variously three times and inscribed with the Doris Mills inventory #1/36
12 x 15 in 30.5 x 38.1 cm
Estimate: $700,000 - $900,000
Sold for: $1,261,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Acquired directly from the Artist by a Private Collector upon his return from service in World War II in 1943; shortly thereafter the Collector moved to Colorado
By descent through the family to a Private Estate, Toronto
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, May 25, 2006, lot 82
Private Collection, Vancouver
Doris Mills, L.S. Harris Inventory, 1936, Arctic Sketches, Group 1, catalogue #36, titled as Morin Island, Eclipse Sound, location noted as MacDonald Studio, 26 Granville St.
R. Preston, editor, The Canadian Historical Society, Report of the Annual Meeting Held at Victoria and Vancouver, June 16 – 19, 1948, Toronto, page 36
Peter Larisey, Light for a Cold Land: Lawren Harris’s Work and Life—An Interpretation, 1993, pages 109 and 111
Paul Duval, Lawren Harris: Where the Universe Sings, 2011, reproduced page 338
In August of 1930, Lawren Harris traveled to the Arctic in the company of his friend A.Y. Jackson on the supply ship the SS Beothic. Jackson had traveled twice previously to the Arctic and would later return, but this was to be Harris’s only trip. Harris later noted, “We were most fortunate on this occasion as this particular expedition made the most extensive trip ever taken in the Arctic region in one season.” The ship traveled to Greenland, Ellesmere Island, Morin and Bylot Islands, and Baffin Island and also explored the Newfoundland and Labrador coasts. The arctic voyage came after a series of trips to the north shore of Lake Superior and later the Rockies in the late teens and twenties. Throughout this period, Harris had sought to simplify and refine his painting to reflect both his deep commitment to the landscape itself and his theosophical beliefs. Harris believed that the purpose of art was to better mankind and to improve his spiritual state. The trip to the Arctic therefore strongly reinforced his philosophical beliefs, which held that the Far North could be the source of spiritual and aesthetic purity.
Harris was very much impressed by the arctic landscape on the journey and, in addition to making his art, made a film of the trip. As Peter Larisey has pointed out, the excitement of the trip as seen in the film is in marked “contrast to the stillness and uninhabited views in Harris’s paintings.” Harris recalled: “While we were on this trip Jackson and I painted a large number of sketches, although the painting was difficult as we usually saw the most exciting subjects while steaming through channels or being bumped by pack ice. On many occasions we had time only to take rapid notes. These notes we worked up into sketches, crowded into our small cabin, seated on the edge of our respective bunk with only a port-hole to let in the light.”
The works that Harris produced as a result of this trip are amongst the finest sketches of his career, and the fact that many were produced from quick pencil drawings is a testament to his great skill. Morin Island provided Harris with a bold triangular shape, something he had previously explored in Rocky Mountain sketches and which would figure prominently in his later abstract work (such as Composition No. 1, 1941, collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery). The severity and geometry of the form of the island is emphasized by the device of silhouetting the upper part of the peak against the softer cloud forms. The remoteness of the main island is further emphasized by the repeated pattern of the whitecaps on the ocean and the island at the right. The sketch is a remarkable evocation of a landscape as forbidding as it is magnificent.
Harris and Jackson had exhibitions of their arctic work in Ottawa at the National Gallery of Canada in December of 1930 and at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario) in May of 1931. As Larisey noted, Harris “more than any other Canadian painter…was responsible for integrating the Arctic into the Canadian landscape tradition.”
Estimate: $700,000 - $900,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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