LOT 135

1885 - 1970

Mount Edith Cavell
oil on board, 1924
on verso signed and titled
10 1/2 x 13 3/4 in, 26.7 x 34.9 cm

Estimate: $350,000 - $550,000 CAD

Sold for: $391,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

C.A.G. Matthews, Toronto
McMichael Conservation Collection of Art, Kleinburg
Roberts Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Ontario

Augustus Bridle, " 'School of Seven' Exhibition Is Riot of Impressions," The Star Weekly, January 10, 1925
Salem Bland, The Toronto Star, January 13, 1925
Christopher Jackson, North by West: The Arctic and Rocky Mountain Paintings of Lawren Harris, 1924 – 1931, Glenbow Museum, 1991, page 31

McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, 50th Anniversary Group of Seven, 1920 - 1970

Inscribed on verso "I was with Lawren when he painted this sketch of Mount Edith Cavell in 1926 - A.Y. Jackson" and with stock #959A on the Roberts Gallery label

On his first trip to the Rocky Mountains, in late summer and early fall of 1924, Lawren Harris was accompanied by his family and by fellow Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson, and they used the lodge in Jasper National Park as their base. Leaving Harris’s family at the lodge, Jackson and Harris went out to sketch for 10 days. On their return, a trip to Vancouver and Prince Rupert intervened, but they then returned to Jasper Park for further sketching. The two artists journeyed out into the mountains on foot and horseback, sometimes with a guide, and either camped or stayed in cabins. Intrepid and resourceful, they were well prepared with tents, bedrolls, art supplies and food. In their various journeys, they went southeast from Jasper to Maligne Lake, east to the Colin Range and north about 20 miles to the west of the Athabasca River in the Tonquin Valley. Here they would have seen Mount Edith Cavell, located in the Athabasca River and Astoria River valleys of Jasper Park.

Although the verso of this work has an inscription by Jackson that indicates he was with Harris when he painted this oil sketch in 1926, the only recorded trip that Jackson took with Harris to the Rockies was in 1924, thus the date 1926 in the inscription must be mistaken. Jackson produced a gouache on paper of this exact scene at a later time entitled Mount Edith Cavell (in the collection of the Glenbow Museum), possibly based on this oil sketch or on another work executed during this 1924 trip. Jackson’s gouache has an assigned circa date of 1927, the year this gouache was included in a Canadian National Railway tourist brochure.

In his Rockies paintings, Harris continued with the creative process of transformation that had begun in his Lake Superior-based works. He simplified the elements of the landscape to increase their power, and he explained that he was “moved by the…shapes and forms themselves to eliminate all irrelevant details in an endeavour to make essential forms.” He infused his mountain paintings with a mystical atmosphere through his extraordinary use of light. Harris’s theosophical beliefs informed his outlook on nature - for him, the mountains embodied the spiritual: they were an intersection between the earthly plane and the cosmic. In Mount Edith Cavell, the point of view is from the middle of the lake, in whose still reflection we see the peak. The mountain rises above a richly glowing grassy plain and lower slope, and the atmospheric haze that envelops it makes it appear slightly remote and otherworldly. Three clouds hover at the top left, and Harris brings our eye right to them through the upward diagonal lines of the rock formations. These sculpted clouds, moving up and out of the picture plane, seem as if they are gentle, drifting thought forms exuded by the mountain.

In the 1925 Group of Seven exhibition in Toronto, Harris included a number of paintings from this Jasper Park trip. Critics at the time took note of the impact of Harris’s Jasper works. Augustus Bridle wrote in The Star Weekly, “He does not give you a mountain, but the platonic idea of a mountain, a mathematical infinite series of mountain impressions, something geometric, and impressively pyramidal, if not veridical, a real brainstorm among mountains.” Salem Bland wrote in the Toronto Star, “I felt as if the Canadian soul were unveiling to me something secret and high and beautiful which I had never guessed - a strength and self-reliance and a mysticism I had not suspected. I saw as I had never seen before the part the wilderness was to play in the moulding of the Canadian spirit.” Harris’s mountain paintings continue to have an impact today, as viewers perceive and appreciate their universal message of the power and spiritual renewal present in the Canadian Rockies.

Estimate: $350,000 - $550,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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