Lot # 123
Spring 2016 - 2nd Session Live auction

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

Coldwell, Lake Superior, Lake Superior Sketch XXII
oil on board circa 1924
signed and on verso signed, titled variously and inscribed "25 Severn St. Toronto" and with the Doris Mills inventory number 4/22
12 x 15 in  30.5 x 38.1cm

Provenance:
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Montreal
Private Collection, Montreal
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, November 23, 2007, lot 82
Private Collection, Toronto

Literature:
Doris Mills, L.S. Harris Inventory, 1936, Lake Superior Sketches, Group 4, listed, catalogue #/22

From as early as 1908, Lawren Harris had been painting the Canadian landscape in a remarkable variety of locations. He had worked on his own and in the company of other painters from Lake of the Woods on the Ontario/Manitoba border to the Laurentians in Quebec. We can dot a map using locations mentioned in the titles of the works: Algoma, Lake Simcoe, Minden, the Haliburton Highlands, Georgian Bay, Mattawa and Temiskaming, to name but a few. A trip to the northern shore of Lake Superior in the company of A.Y. Jackson in 1921 proved to be absolutely seminal. This region would affect him like no other location he had seen. Only the landscape of the Canadian Rockies, still three years away in his journeys, would have such a profound impact on his visual language. And, as with the Rockies, and later the Arctic, the visual material at Lake Superior would become a language of sorts in his landscape work: the characteristic anchor of a smooth, foreground rock placed low at the edge of the work, unobtrusive yet solid; the hummocky bushes on the distant hill; the undulating treeline in the foreground; the pattern of light and shadow on the shore in the far left of the work. This rugged, unpopulated land, with its vastness of space, would allow him to further explore light, to include expansive amounts of sky and to not have to bother with any sort of painterly clutter. The smooth surface of the land here was polished by glaciers many years prior to Harris’s brush, yet his treatment of it serves to further this quality, taking the landscape ever closer to what Harris saw as perfection.
In Coldwell, Lake Superior, Lake Superior Sketch XXII, we see the barren land spread out before us, dark rounded hills distant and smooth, the sky a play of yellow and blue, grey and white. The scene is utterly still - no wind, no rain, no boat on the lake. The sky is handled in bands of light that masterfully communicate the vastness of this region. The brushwork is classic Harris, visible in some places, but always completely controlled. Many of Harris’s works have an uncanny ability to visually vibrate, almost to hum, when contemplated at length. These are effects Harris would consciously seek, often using hot colours as underpaint; he often used halos both above and below features to cause them to seemingly float.
Coldwell, Lake Superior is a stunning work. Expansive, uncontained by the limits of space, it echoes the measureless visual distances that Harris encountered on the north shore and captures the elusive spiritually heightened state he sought to reach.
The Lake Superior works follow a path of simplification in much the same manner as do the Rockies paintings. In these works, Harris moves from a traditional representation of the scenery through stages of geometric simplification, through a mathematical paring down of physical features to intellectual abstraction. Each stage is extremely interesting, leading - sometimes cleanly - one to another, and following in tandem with Harris’s understanding of and commitment to theosophy. Theosophy’s founder, Madame Helena Blavatsky, proposed that theosophy was the original wisdom that gave rise to all other religions. This wisdom is rooted in the natural world, and it requires followers to scrutinize their own actions and behaviours in order to achieve a divine state. Harris believed that all things are made up of layers, both visible and invisible, depending upon the viewer’s ability to see them. The outer layer - the one we all see, the physical layer - was the least desirable, a sight he sought to move past. The innermost layer was the spirituality of the thing, visible only to those fully attuned to see it. Harris’s role as an artist - his path to a divine state - was to take us with him past the outer layers and into the spirit of the scene. In his Lake Superior works, he is painting the spirit of the land through his attuned eyes.
We thank Lisa Christensen, author of A Hiker’s Guide to the Rocky Mountain Art of Lawren Harris and director of Heffel’s Calgary office, for contributing the above essay.
The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto have partnered on a major exhibition entitled The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris. The exhibition is curated by Steve Martin in collaboration with Cynthia Burlingham, Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs at the Hammer Museum, and Andrew Hunter, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art, at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The exhibit is on at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston until June 12, 2016 and will open on July 1, 2016 at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Estimate: $450,000 ~ $550,000 CAD  
Sold for: $649,000 CAD (including Buyer's Premium)

All prices are in Canadian Dollars.

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