Lot # 166
Lawren Stewart Harris
ALC BCSFA CGP FCA G7 OSA RPS TPG 1885 - 1970 Canadian
Mount Temple, Mountain Sketch LII
oil on board circa 1928
signed and on verso signed twice, once on the artist's label and on the board as Lawren Harris, 4760 Belmont Ave. Vancouver and titled and titled on the artist's label
12 x 15 in 30.5 x 38.1cm
Bess Harris Collection
G. Blair Laing Limited, Toronto, 1951
Acquired by the present Private Collector, Toronto, 1970
Doris Mills, L.S. Harris Inventory, 1936, listed, location noted as the Studio Building, a drawing of this work illustrated by Mills page 38
Lawren Harris, "Art as an Expression of the Value of its Day", National Archives of Canada, Lawren Harris fonds, Mg30 D208, undated, unpaginated
Andrew Bell, "Lawren Harris - Retrospective Exhibition of his Painting, 1910 - 1948", Canadian Art, Volume VI, No. 2, 1948, page 51
Northrop Frye, "The Pursuit of Form", Canadian Art, Volume VI, No. 2, 1948, page 54
The Art Gallery of Toronto, Lawren Harris Retrospective Exhibition, 1948, catalogue #132
Inscribed on verso "BHC-111 Bess Harris collection, not for sale", also inscribed with the Doris Mills Inventory #7152 and on the Laing label "painted circa 1928. Acquired from the artist about 1951"
In Lawren Harris's mountain works, triangular, isolated peaks were his preferred type. Mount Temple, one of the dominant peaks in the Lake Louise region of Banff National Park, was such a peak. Harris sketched and painted there several times, first seeing the region in 1926 during his second trip to the Canadian Rockies, and returning to it as a theme numerous times in subsequent years. Mount Temple, along with Mont de Poilus - the mountain depicted in the Isolation Peak works, and Mount Robson, first seen on Harris's 1924 trip through the Rockies with A.Y. Jackson, were incredibly important places for Harris, and their forms became the kernels of shape and idea in his later abstractions. In this magnificent work, Harris has presented Mount Temple to us as isolated and singular, a soaring, coldly serene object set behind a blue pool of water. Framed with a sky that moves from blue to white, the peak is iconic, rarified.
By the late 1920s Harris was a practicing theosophist and was seeking, through his art, to convey a higher spiritual wisdom to others. Theosophy seeks to understand the world with divine, god-like wisdom, a spiritual science of sorts, and to see the beauty, truth and spirituality in all forms of life, both animate and inanimate. Harris, more than any other painter of the Canadian Rockies, sought to depict the soul of the mountains in his works. Simplification of form, unification of palette, and harmony of composition were a few of Harris's tools in this quest. In Mount Temple, Mountain Sketch LII, Harris has angled the slabs of stone in the foreground of the work to draw our eye over the middle distance and to the foot of the peak. From there, he leads us up the Black Towers, the triangular rock forms on Temple's left side, to the sweeping glacier, icy white and smoothly painted, that sits atop the peak in sunlight, its brushwork contrasting subtly with that of the sky. The small touch of green in the foreground, indicative of moss or grass, serves to soften the cool purples and blues of the works, and the bright blue of the pool of water, echoed in the distant peaks on the far horizon, balances the scene as a whole.
This remarkable work was included in the 1948 retrospective of Harris's work that was held at The Art Gallery of Toronto, now the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was the first time a Canadian painter was given a retrospective show during his lifetime. A rare opportunity to see the full breadth of Harris's work to that point in his life, the show was the subject of two articles in the Christmas issue of Canadian Art magazine, by Andrew Bell, a regular writer for the magazine, and by Northrop Frye. Frye's article describes Harris as "Canada's only important revolutionary painter" and describes Harris's work as an act of will: "What is most interesting in these pictures, perhaps, is the evidence of the strain and effort of will by which their deceptive serenity is achieved," and likens Harris to a poet who tames chaos through simplification. Bell is equally awed by Harris's ability to simplify and to convey something moving and deeply profound in his work: "Harris is a sincere man, and it seems that, to be moving in paint, it was first vital that he personally be moved." In his best mountain works, such as this depiction of Mount Temple, we often find that the experiences Harris had in the Rockies moved him deeply. He said, "The ultimate value of creative life in art depends on the conviction, devotion and unswerving aesthetic integrity of the creative artist. The drive of the creative in him leads him to paint at the top of his capacity, at the forefront of his nature - for it is only there that he is receptive to intimations and can begin to visualize and create works that may afford people an answer to the needs of their developing awareness. If this were not so the great works of the past and to-day would never have come to be revered."
The consignor will donate the proceeds from the sale of this work to Canadian charities.
Sold For: $468,000.00 CAD (including Buyer's Premium)
Estimate: $200,000 ~ $250,000 CAD
Preview at: Heffel Fine Art Auction House Vancouver