Fall 2011 - 2nd Session Live auction
Lot # 172
Lawren Stewart Harris
ALC BCSFA CGP FCA G7 OSA RPS TPG 1885 - 1970 Canadian
North from Mt. St. Piran, Near Lake Louise
oil on panel circa 1929
signed and on verso signed, titled and inscribed and inscribed with the Doris Mills Inventory #7/28 and "2423"
12 x 15 in 30.5 x 38.1cm
Private Collection, USA
Doris Mills, L.S. Harris Inventory, 1936, listed as Group 7 (7 /28) Rocky Mountain Sketches, location noted as the Studio Building, a drawing of this work illustrated by Mills page 34
Joan Murray and Robert Fulford, The Beginning of Vision: The Drawings of Lawren S. Harris, 1982
Art Gallery of Hamilton, label on verso
In 1929, Lawren Harris visited the Canadian Rockies on what would have been his fourth sketching and painting trip. He had visited Jasper National Park in 1924, Yoho National Park and Lake O’Hara in 1926 and 1928, and now, in 1929, the Lake Louise region of Banff National Park. From the area around Lake Louise, Harris had convenient access to the valleys on the main floor, the hanging valleys higher up, and to some high altitude vistas, easily reached from the slopes of Fairview Mountain and the Saddleback, as well as an adjacent alpine pass dotted with larches and accessible by a short but steep hike. It seems that Harris ascended the top of Fairview Mountain to paint this work. Here, well above the tree line, Harris looked out onto the vast distances filled with the jutting peaks of the Slate Range, Mount Victoria and the peaks that form the glorious backdrop to the turquoise waters of Lake Louise, with the massive form of Mount Temple at his back. His sketchbooks, pages of which are published in The Beginning of Vision, are filled with pencil drawings from the area, attesting to his prowess as an ambitious hiker who was not afraid to head straight up to a height of 9,000 feet (2,744 metres). His desire to seek the high view, to ascend to the higher levels of the mountains, ran parallel to his desire to reach a higher plane of understanding in his work. North from Mt. St. Piran, Near Lake Louise is proof of this, with a vista looking directly across the waters of Lake Louise and far above the heads of the tourists that bustle in the valley below. Here, without roads, trains or travelers, the mountains in all their geometric beauty are laid bare. Thin air and artistic vision combine to rake the mountains clean; rough rocky scree slopes are smoothed and molded, shaded mountainsides become bands of purple, colours move from near browns and greens into the purple, blues and whites of the distant Waputik Range.
Perhaps the title of the work – which is somewhat misleading as we are looking north at Mount St. Piran as well as onward beyond it – alludes to Harris’s wish for his art to take us further than the brushmarks and colours he applied to his canvases might. If we look at Harris as an artistic prophet, we can also look at his works as sermons, guides to wisdom and ladders to clarity, laying out a pathway to follow. Harris was adept at dealing with the complexities of conveying a sense of vast, unpopulated space in canvases of a small size, a talent which should not be underestimated. The peaks in the upper right of this work are very far away, yet he places them within our reach, both physically, as he takes us up the mountain to see them, and spiritually, as he brings them into our realm of understanding. His personal explorations of mysticism and spirituality contributed to his painter’s mastery of space and shape, and allowed him to contain a vast world of actual place, and an even larger intellectual idea, in a small size.
By 1929, Harris had blended the natural world and the spiritual world into a smooth mixture, and his mountain works had taken on an increasing sense of the mystical without leaving the known world of a particular lake, a certain peak, or a landmark glacier behind. It seems almost effortless, as the works are often simple and spare in their detail. The lovely touch of the setting sun's shadow, as the plateau below our vantage point in this work moves from the light into the shade, further emphasizes the focus on the distance and the larger idea he was communicating to us in this fine work.
Estimate: $125,000 ~ $175,000 CAD
Sold For: $128,700.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)