Artwork by Lawren Stewart Harris,  House, Toronto

Lawren Harris
House, Toronto

oil on panel
titled and inscribed “Lawren Harris” on the reverse; titled “Houses, Group No. XIV” and inscribed “Lawren Harris” by Doris Mills on a label; inscribed “property of Bess Harris 1942”; typed “Howard K. Harris Estate” on a label (titled “House Toronto”)
10.5 x 14 ins ( 26.7 x 35.6 cms )

Sold for $115,000.00
Sale date: May 31st 2016

Provenance:
Private Collection, Ontario
Literature:
Jeremy Adamson, “Urban Scenes and Wilderness Landscapes, 1906-1930”,Toronto, 1978, pages 25 and 96-99
Beginning with realistic studies in charcoal of Toronto and the European cities Harris visited while travelling, Harris developed his urban landscape genre capturing numerous socio-economic classes of dwellings from working-class shacks to Rosedale residences.

“House, Toronto“ embodies the artist’s fascination with light's effect on colour and his experimentation of colour palettes. Standing out from the muted blue shadows, the bright orange facade and vibrant yellow trim on the front of the house exemplify Harris' exploration of colour not traditionally witnessed in earlier palettes of Canadian painting. On the neighbouring house, light reflects brightly off of its white exterior, emphasizing the bright day in which Harris sketched these Toronto houses. Fluid and loose brushstrokes in the sky and clouds are contrasted by the more linear strokes on the central home, complementing and delineating the architectural details of the house.

As no figures are present, the scene stands as a portrait of a house and neighbourhood of Toronto. For Harris, it was not merely an exercise in depicting what he saw, but incorporating what he conceived should be reality. In this respect, the artist captures the the feeling of the home and leaves a token of Toronto's past, a glimpse into the urban history and development of the city.

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Lawren Stewart Harris
(1885 - 1970) Group of Seven, Canadian Group of Painters

Lawren Harris was born in Brantford, Ontario and at the age of 19 went to Berlin for academic training. His first two years included study in pencil, charcoal and watercolours. He took instruction in the studio mornings, out-of-doors sketching in the slums of Berlin afternoons, and sketching figures in the studio evenings in watercolour and drawing media. His last two years were spent in the study of portraits and figures in oils. Two of his teachers were Mr. Wille and Mr. Schlabitz. Schlabitz accompanied him in the summer on a walking tour of the Austrian Tyrol where Harris did some sketching. After his study in Germany Harris travelled in Palestine and Arabia with Norman Duncan where he did illustrations. He then visited lumber camps in Minnesota where he made illustrations for Harper’s magazine.

By 1910 Harris was back in Toronto where he saw everything with fresh eyes. His work had more vigour and sensitivity to colour and form. His first studio was located over Giles grocery store, north of Bloor and Yonge Streets. His attraction for the poorer areas of town gained him the reputation of socialist painter. His “house portraits” brought a storm of criticism against him. In Toronto the Arts and Letters Club had been formed only two years before Harris’ return and it was not long before he was an active member. It was at the Arts and Letters Club that Harris first saw the attractive sketches of J.E.H. MacDonald in 1911. Harris and MacDonald became good friends and shared an appreciation of the arts in depth. They visited Buffalo together in January of 1913 to see the exhibition of Scandinavian art which had been reviewed in art magazines. This exhibition made a deep impression on both artists. Harris took sketching trips with MacDonald in 1912 at Mattawa and Timiskaming and in 1913 they went to the Laurentians. Harris met other artists at the Arts and Letters Club. Many of them like MacDonald were working for the Grip Engraving Company as commercial artists.

In 1914 Harris and Dr. James MacCallum conceived the idea of building a studio building which could accommodate Canadian artists of ability who could devote their full attentions to painting, free from the pressures of commercialism. Many Canadian artists were drifting south to the U.S. and it was Harris’ and MacCallum’s hope that such a plan would prevent the loss of all of Canada’s most talented painters. Harris was well off through his connection with Massey-Harris (his grandfather was a founder of the firm) and so was Dr. MacCallum. They realized their plan and the Studio Building was erected on Severn Street in Toronto.

Harris became the driving force behind the Group of Seven. A.Y. Jackson claimed: "Without Harris there would have been no Group of Seven. He provided the stimulus; it was he who encouraged us always to take the bolder course, to find new trails." By 1918 Lawren Harris had travelled to the Algoma region in the company of MacDonald and Johnston. In 1920 they held an exhibition at the Art Museum of Toronto (Art Gallery of Ontario). Harris wrote “The group of seven artists whose pictures are here exhibited have for several years held a like vision concerning art in Canada. They are all imbued with the idea that an art must grow and flower in the land before the country will be a real home for its people…” Harris made his first trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior in 1921.

His search for a deeper spiritual meaning eventually took him to the stark landscapes of the far north. By the late 1920s the artist's work strove to capture the spiritual essence of the bold landforms of the Rockies and the Arctic. Throughout the ensuing decade Harris continued to simplify and abstract his landscapes until his subjects became non-representational. Lawren Harris worked as a member of the Transcendental Group of Painters in Santa Fe, New Mexico for two years, returning to Canada in 1940 and settling in Vancouver for the remainder of his lifetime.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979