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Lawren Stewart Harris

Lawren Stewart Harris
L'automne 2010 - 2e séance Vente en salle

Lot # 134

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

Algoma Landscape
oil on canvas circa 1950 ~ 1951
37 1/4 x 42 pouces  94.6 x 106.7cm

Waddington Galleries, Toronto
Acquired from the above by the present Private Collector, Toronto, 1978

The end of the First World War in 1918 was a pivotal time for Lawren Harris and his painter friends. In September of that year, Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, Frank Johnston and their friend, physician Dr. James MacCallum, made the first of a series of boxcar sketching trips to the Algoma region of Ontario. The artists were so struck by the rich variety of subject matter that they returned the following year, this time with A.Y. Jackson, and a pattern of painting in the region was established. The sketches that Harris produced are characterized by a directness of observation and a keen appreciation for the colours of nature. These sketches became the sources for canvases which were produced later in his studio in Toronto. It is likely that it was in either 1918 or 1919 that Harris produced Algoma Sketch XLII (reproduced here). This sketch, a more realistic image than the large-scale decorative canvases he produced before the war (for example, Decorative Landscape, 1917, in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada), shows us a screen of trees, some living and some dead, against a remarkably radiant sky. There is a careful balance between the strong verticals of the trees and the horizontal format of the panel, and the work is animated by flashes of brighter colour throughout the design. Not every sketch was turned into a canvas, and for whatever reason, Harris did not immediately work up this sketch into a larger composition.

Although Harris is renowned as a landscape painter and was a pivotal figure in the formation of the Group of Seven, beginning in the mid-1930s he devoted most of the latter part of his career to abstraction. This move was driven by a desire to get away from anecdotal painting and to express more purely his spiritual beliefs. He did not, however, abandon the natural world, and continued to hike and sketch outdoors for much of his life. He also did not abandon landscape painting – many of the abstractions retain traces of the natural world and occasionally, such as in Algoma Landscape, he produced large-scale canvases later in his career. There are a number of paintings, of the Rockies and the Algoma region, where he used earlier sketches as the source for paintings produced years later. Two notable examples are a version of Isolation Peak sold at auction in 1990 and a canvas entitled Mountains, Moraine Lake, now in the collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. These later canvases have a number of characteristics that differentiate them from works of the 1920s. The support (whether board or, as in this case, canvas) is different; the application of the paint is less reliant on impasto and more reliant on subtle shifts of colour, something that he developed in his abstractions. What remains constant, however, is a desire to refine and formalize the composition. The immediacy of the sketch has been transformed into a more cerebral and considered work of art. The changes that occur between the sketch and Algoma Landscape are subtle but striking. Reflecting his spiritual beliefs, the colours used have an evanescent quality, particularly in the sky, and there is a greater formality to the composition, which suggests that the scene is more imagined than observed. Harris retains that careful balance of horizontals and verticals found in the sketch, but there is a greater distance between the viewer and the subject – one that comes from years of reflection and careful thought. Harris has returned to an earlier subject, but as with other instances when this occurs, he does not try to repeat himself, but rather to produce a more contemporary variation which reflects his achievements as an artist in the intervening years. Algoma Landscape is a work which is deeply informed by both his early explorations of the Canadian landscape and his almost two decades as one of Canada’s most important abstractionists.

The consignor will donate the proceeds from the sale of this work to Canadian charities.

Estimation: 250,000 $ ~ 350,000 $ CAN

S'est vendu pour: 269,100.00 $ CAN (prime d'achat incluse)

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