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LOT 134

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

Birches
oil on board
signed and on verso signed twice, titled, dated circa 1916 on the gallery label and inscribed "VI" / "25 Severn St. Toronto" / "$50.00" / "198" and with the artist's symbol (cross circled)
13 5/8 x 10 5/8 in 34.6 x 27 cm

Estimate: $150,000 - $200,000

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

PROVENANCE
Private Collection, Ontario
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary
Collection of George Cook, Calgary
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary
Collection of Mrs. Maureen Heffring, Calgary
Private Collection, Vancouver


Prior to the formal establishment of the Group of Seven in 1920, there existed a loosely organized group of painters collectively known as the Algonquin School. These artists, among them Tom Thomson, Lawren Harris, Arthur Lismer and Frederick Varley, would travel alone or often together in small groups to sketch the forests, lakes and rivers of Algonquin Park. As part of this group, Harris and Thomson sketched together in several locations in Algonquin Park in 1916. It was during this same painting excursion with Harris that Thomson produced the sketches he would use for the iconic paintings The West Wind (collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario) and The Jack Pine (collection of the National Gallery of Canada). Birches dates from this important period, on the rare occasion that these two Canadian art legends sketched side by side in the Canadian wilderness.

Harris was devastated by the tragic and untimely death of Thomson in the summer of 1917. He was tasked with organizing the collection of works Thomson had left behind in the makeshift studio he had helped the artist erect in the shack behind the Studio Building in Toronto. Harris selected the 1916 Thomson sketch Autumn Birches to keep for himself when cataloguing the painter’s works, and it was one of only four works by Thomson that Harris owned. This painting was likely chosen as an important memento of the time they had spent sketching together the prior year in Algonquin Park.

One can see how Harris was influenced by Thomson when these two sketches with birch themes are compared. Harris, in the painterly style of Thomson, uses a minimal number of well placed, bold and expressive brush-strokes to compose the scene. Vibrant green curtains of foliage in both scenes are expertly executed with highly textured and prominent single brush-strokes. Both painters incorporate the sketching board as an important element in the painting by using it to outline and emphasize the vertical birch trunks rising up and penetrating the top of the composition. Warmth in each scene is achieved by the addition of well placed, striking highlights of pink and vermilion in the respective foregrounds. In contemplating both these works, one can only ponder how these two men would have continued to influence each other if events had unfolded differently.

Beyond the important connection to Thomson, Birches stands on its own as one of the finest examples of a decorative landscape painting by Harris from this time period. Most of the Algonquin group and subsequent Group of Seven members had a background in graphic design, and this formal training greatly influenced their artistic expression. Many of their paintings at this time were bold, decorative landscapes that emphasized line, colour and pattern to achieve an overall cohesiveness. Strong design elements are evident in Birches in the use of purple tones for the rocky ground and verdant green in the undergrowth, which are reflected upward into the trunks and the birch leaves, providing a pleasing symmetry and overall balance to the composition. Also the striking contrast of the alternating pattern of black and white bark on the birch trunks is attractively achieved through the careful application of each element. A bright and clear blue sky penetrates the entire scene, illuminating the grove and bringing all the elements into harmony. The overall effect creates a vigorous impression of natural beauty, which Harris must have experienced during a time when he and Thomson were so closely inspired by one another.


Estimate: $150,000 - $200,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars


Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business.