Lot Sale Results

Lawren Stewart Harris

Lawren Stewart Harris
Fall 2009 - 2nd Session Live auction

Lot # 242

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

In Buchanan Bay, Ellesmere Island
oil on board 1930
on verso signed, titled twice and inscribed in graphite "C.S. Band"
12 x 15 in  30.5 x 38.1cm

Provenance:
Charles S. Band, Toronto
Estate of Helen E. Band, Toronto

Literature:
Lawren Harris, Paintings 1910 - 1948, Art Gallery of Toronto, 1948, listed page 36
Paintings and Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. C.S. Band, 1953, National Gallery of Canada, listed, unpaginated
Jeremy Adamson, Art Gallery of Ontario, Lawren S. Harris: Urban Scenes and Wilderness Landscapes 1906 - 1930, 1978, reproduced page 200, figure #32
Christopher Jackson, North by West: The Arctic and Rocky Mountain Paintings of Lawren Harris, 1924 - 1931, Glenbow Museum, 1991, page 17

Exhibited:
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Arctic Sketches by A.Y. Jackson, R.C.A. and Lawren Harris, December 1930, catalogue #12
Art Gallery of Toronto, Arctic Sketches by Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson, R.C.A., May 1931, catalogue #402
Art Gallery of Toronto, Lawren Harris, Paintings 1910 - 1948, October - November 1948, catalogue #136
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Paintings and Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. C.S. Band, 1953, catalogue #19
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, catalogue #136
Art Gallery of Hamilton, The C.S. Band Collection, November 5 - 30, 1954, catalogue #17
Art Gallery of Ontario, Lawren S. Harris: Urban Scenes and Wilderness Landscapes 1906 - 1930, January 14 - February 26, 1978

To Canadians, the idea of the north conjures up imagery of vast sheets of ice, uninhabited frozen places and remote beauty. The Arctic is enshrined in our minds in endless cold white, a quintessentially Canadian place. In 1930, when Lawren Harris visited the Arctic with A.Y. Jackson, it seemed as if they were visiting the final destination. The Group of Seven had, between them, painted the vast variety of Canada in all its many seasons and faces. From Halifax in the flood of spring to the verdant West Coast, from the tangle of Algoma to the summits of the Rockies, the Arctic was, by extension, a logical final step.
In Buchanan Bay, Ellesmere Island is at once both delicate and bold, forbidding and enticing in its serene Arctic beauty. Harris painted three iceberg forms, set a distance away from an ice shelf in the near ground, that seem to float as one mass. The new white snow on their tops blends seamlessly with the facetted, gem-like, blue ice of their ancient interiors. The sky is handled simply - just a few bands of blue grey and slice of pinkish white. The movement in these colour bands indicates a vanishing point that is well out of the work, and reminds us of the vastness of this region, the unimaginably large distances of the north. The icebergs themselves take the form that melting has given them - abstract and strange, they follow no pattern, ascribe to no mathematical theory. Their transitory nature is reinforced by the smaller patches of ice that drift about them in the water.
The spiritual depth of Harris's Arctic works cannot be underestimated, and to understand why, we must first understand where Harris was at spiritually, at the time of his Arctic journey. The Group of Seven had exhibited together, faced their critics together, grown and changed. Franz Johnston had resigned from the Group in 1924, later to be replaced by A.J. Casson in 1926. Varley had moved to Vancouver that same year. It was a time of change, and Harris was seeking new direction in his work. He corresponded with Emily Carr, speaking to her of his doubts and assuring her of her own worth as a painter. Like her, he was grasping for something more in his art, something that he knew could not be found in traditional landscape painting. Harris's journey down the path of theosophical practice also had grown more devout, more all consuming. He wanted clarity, simplicity and directness. The Arctic was the perfect place for this ripening sense of profound spirituality to crystallize.
In addition to noting the changes in Harris's peer group and the overall direction of the Group of Seven, it is essential to understand how much Harris was truly open to the profound, ready to be touched by something more than the mundane workings of daily life. He wanted spiritual experiences - to be lifted up, so to speak, above the day to day. His imagination had been swept up in the idea of the north long before his visit, and once in the Arctic, as Christopher Jackson writes, "Harris seemed to drink in the psychic atmosphere of the place he saw as the spiritual epicenter of the world." He was in search of basic form, and in the icebergs, he found it.
Harris's icebergs have a different kind of beauty than his delicate street scenes, his bold mountain paintings, his charged Algoma paintings, and even the works from the north shore of Lake Superior. Icebergs exist for only a short time, and we, in viewing them, have been privileged to share, however briefly, in one of Nature's greatest manifestations of beauty, her purest form of creation. We cannot help being awed by them, and surrender to their wonder, having no recourse to question or explain. This was the moment of understanding that Harris sought in his spiritual quest - a moment, if you will, of truth.
Perhaps Harris, in his austere iceberg paintings, is also speaking about the fleeting nature of life. We can wonder if Harris saw the parallels with the end of an era, the end of the heyday of the Group of Seven and the end of his exploration of the Canadian landscape in their melting forms. Whether or nor Harris was aware of the irony of the subject in his last landscape works, it is not lost on us looking back at them almost 80 years later. In their still beauty, trapped by Harris in oil on board, the icebergs speak of endings. They mark the end of an extraordinary period of landscape painting in the life of a groundbreaking painter, as Harris produced only 36 sketches and six canvases of Arctic imagery. These were his last explorations of realistic landscape. Like the iceberg itself, these works are among Harris's greatest and most rare manifestations of beauty.

Estimate: $550,000 ~ $750,000 CAD

Sold For: $1,111,500.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)


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