Artwork by Lawren Stewart Harris,  Snow-Covered Trees

Lawren Harris
Snow-Covered Trees

a signed inscription by A.J. Casson reads “This is an original by Lawren Harris Sr. 1929” within the lower margin
5.5 x 4.5 ins ( 14 x 11.4 cms ) ( subject )

Sold for $50,600.00
Sale date: May 25th 2017

Peter Ohler Fine Arts Ltd., Vancouver
Private Collection, Vancouver
David P. Silcox, The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, Toronto, 2003, pages 18 and 294-95
Nils Ohlsen, “This Is What We Want To Do With Canada – Reflections of Scandinavian Landscape Painting in the Work of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven,” Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, London, 2011, page 49
In January, 1913, Lawren Harris and J.E.H. MacDonald, recent friends and frequent sketching partners, travelled to the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo, New York to view the Exhibition of Contemporary Scandinavian Art. The show inspired the pair, Harris and MacDonald moved not only by the subject matter, the depictions providing a distinct view of the Northern European countries’ terrain, but also the handling and stylization within the landscapes. Of the paintings included in the exhibition, parallels (or “correspondence”, as described by MacDonald) can be perceived between the handing of the snow-laden trees in Gustav Vjæstad’s “Vintermånsken” (Winter Moonlight) and the trees we find as a focus in Lawren Harris’ work in the following years.

In 1915’s “Snow II” (Collection of the National Gallery of Canada), three masses of large trees populate the foreground in soft shadow, partially screening the sunlit far shore of the background lake. The boughs are weighed heavily by the bluish snow, allowing only glimpses of the foliage beneath, the trees’ overall shapes softened by the precipitation. “Winter Sunrise”, the 1918 canvas in the collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery provides a focus of three large coniferous trees, Harris presenting them in a more triangular shape, the snowy the branches forced downward with gravity’s pull.

This gouache by Harris possesses strong aspects of Harris’ continued stylization of the Canadian wilderness toward his eventual arrival in abstraction. The three trees, their bases huddled together, are completely cloaked in heavy snow, the bluish white layers smoothing the three into tight cones. While the tree on the right points sharply toward the sky, the other two curve slightly, further indication of the weight of the thick blankets. The painter’s low, curving horizon ensures an upward focus upon the three trees, set in front of a massive sky. Long, finger-like clouds stretch across the composition, reminiscent of many of the painter’s handling found in his later depictions of Canada’s west and far north.

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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. Upon returning to Ontario he met J.E.H. MacDonald who shared his vision of a new and distinctive way of depicting the Canadian landscape. 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. 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.