Artwork by Ted Harrison,  The Grecian House (Dawson City)

Ted Harrison
The Grecian House (Dawson City)

acrylic on canvas
signed lower right; signed, titled and dated 1982 on the reverse
48 x 60 ins ( 121.9 x 152.4 cms )

Auction Estimate: $40,000.00$30,000.00 - $40,000.00

Price Realized $34,500.00
Sale date: May 25th 2017

The Shayne Gallery, Quebec
Private Collection, Texas
“Ted Harrison,” The Shayne Gallery, Montreal, November 4-20, 1982 (artwork reproduced on the cover of the invitation)
Stan McNeill, “The Yukon Territory is Painter’s Shangri-La,” “The Hamilton Spectator,” October 18, 1980, page 88
Robert Budd, Introduction to “Ted Harrison Collected,” Madeira Park, British Columbia, 2015, pages 5-7
It was an advertisement in a United Kingdom newspaper which initially brought British-born Ted Harrison to Canada’s North, filling a teaching position on the Alberta Indian reservation of Wabasca. The award-winning artist had previously held teaching positions in New Zealand and Malaysia, but felt a pull to the Arctic, however Harrison’s arrival in Wabasca was met with some disappointed due to the flatness of the surrounding landscape. During his time in Wabasca, Harrison played a significant role in developing a new Alberta teaching curriculum for Cree and Metis students, leading later to the bestselling “A Northern Alphabet.” When a teaching post became available in the village of Carcross, south of Whitehorse, the artist leapt at the opportunity after confirming the surrounding mountainous terrain (the salary for the new job was a secondary concern). The Yukon landscape inspired and challenged Harrison: “Never before had I attempted to paint a landscape so gigantic in scale, whose colors dictated to me not only what I should paint but also on what terms I should paint them.” The artist laid aside the formal training he had received as an academic painter in the old tradition and concentrated on “simplifying his work and creating a personal style.”

While the landscape and environment of the North invigorated and forever altered Ted Harrison’s work and life, the people and community of his new home were vital to his work. The large scale of “The Grecian House” envelops the viewer, much as the Arctic captured the painter, the canvas a perfect balance of colour, shape and energy.

A bustling community is sampled by the many men, women and animals populating the composition, heading in all possible directions, many with a level of energy that borders on dance. The slightly-skewed angling of the colourful buildings seem to possess the same rhythm. Typical with Harrison’s signature work, the colour and vivacity of the people and buildings are simpatico with the land and sky, the imperfect and tonal shapes from foreground to icy sea to horizon to abstracted clouded sky each presenting distinct colouring and forms but always maintaining a harmony to the overall composition. Every element has a strong sense of belonging, relaying the very connection, community and peace that Harrison found in the North.

Featured in a November, 1982 exhibition at the Shayne Gallery in Montreal, which Harrison attended, “The Grecian House” was reproduced on the invitation for the opening. A copy of the invitation is included with this lot.
Emerging from a collection in Texas, this large canvas by Harrison excited collectors of the painter’s work upon its return to Canada and inclusion in the Consignor Spring 2017 Live Auction.

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Ted Harrison
(1926 - 2015) Order of Canada

Harrison was born in Durham County, Northern England in 1926. Ted attributed his early interest in art and design to the encouragement from his parents, particularly his mother who had an interest in fashion design and photography. In 1943, he enrolled in the West Hartlepool College of Art and began to study art and design, but like other young men at the time, his education was interrupted by National Service. He served with the British Army Intelligence Corps in India, Egypt and East Africa and after his release studied at the West Hatlepool College of Art where he graduated with his National Diploma in Design in 1950. The following year he was awarded the Art Teachers’ Diploma at Kings’ College of the University of Durham. He later travelled to the Far East and taught school in Malaya and New Zealand.

In 1967 he moved to Canada in a stage of travel on his way to New Zealand with his wife and son. They stopped at Carcross, Yukon Territory and decided to settle there. He taught at the Indian residential school and in 1970 was appointed the principal of the Carcross Territorial School. In 1970 as well, he held his first major exhibition in Canada at the Robertson Galleries, Ottawa. In the summer of 1971 he moved to Whitehorse to establish the first fine arts course in the Yukon and teach at the Yukon Vocational and Technical Training Centre.

Robert Smyth viewing his 1976 show in Ottawa noted, “On first arrival in the Yukon he felt dominated by the mountains. Like Lawren Harris, he has been inspired to create bold stripes of rhythm from their vastness. Often, great expansive skies are filled with this same churning rhythm, made all the more pulsating by the dissonant colour harmonies. ‘Deserted Village’, a few skeletal buildings arranged in front of wildly patterned mountains cape whose turbulence continues to work its way up into the sky above, in full of this vibration. Here colour and rhythm work to good advantage, creating an animated and well-controlled surface. The cadence colour and line is also well-handled in ‘Ross River Fire,’ where spiral tongues of liquid flames spew out angrily from a burning frame house. One forlorn figure holding a battered teddy bear looks. On from the surrounding snow. Somehow, the sentiment is unforced and sincere.”

After 1979, Harrison began to work as an artist full time. In 1993, he moved to Victoria, British Columbia, where he lived the remainder of his life.

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