Artwork by Ted Harrison,  Carcross

Ted Harrison

acrylic on board
signed and dated 1977 lower right; signed, titled, dated 1977 and inscribed “Whitehorse-Yukon” on a copy of a label affixed to the reverse
16.5 x 24 ins ( 41.9 x 61 cms )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$12,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $20,700.00
Sale date: December 14th 2016

Private Collection, Alberta
Stan McNeill, “The Yukon Territory is Painter's Shangri-La”, “The Hamilton Spectator”, October 18, 1980, page 88
Ted Harrison recalled that it was an advertisement in a United Kingdom newspaper which first brought the artist to Canada's north, filling a teaching position on the Alberta Indian reservation of Wabasca. Disappointed by the relative flatness of the surrounding landscape, Harrison jumped at the chance to fill another position in Carcross, a village south of Whitehorse. The painter immediately accepted the position upon confirmation that Carcross was surrounded by mountains, leaving questions regarding his salary as secondary. 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 artistic training he had received as an academic painter in the old tradition and concentrated on “simplifying his work and creating a personal style.”

In a letter to the original owners of this artwork, Harrison describes the subject matter:

“Your painting depicts my favourite village of Carcross in an evening setting. Bennett Lake is behind and the Caribou Hotel occupies the central position. The villagers are packing water, running around and each is occupied with their own business. The purple moon hangs low in the sky and the mountains are silhouetted against the evening sky. This is the time of day which I always loved in Carcross. It is the subtle moment in time when day is fading and the evening has not yet arrived. The world surrounding the village is hushed and still whilst the villagers prepare to move into their homes for the evening.”

A photocopy of the March 1977 letter from Ted Harrison to the original owners of “Carcross” is included with this lot.

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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