Artwork by Lawren Stewart Harris,  Tonquin Valley, Jasper

Lawren Harris
Tonquin Valley, Jasper

insribed with the artist’s notations, including “Edith Cavell” top left; inscribed “650” on the reverse
7.5 x 9.75 ins ( 19.1 x 24.8 cms ) ( sheet )

Auction Estimate: $12,000.00$8,000.00 - $12,000.00

Price Realized $14,400.00
Sale date: November 22nd 2021

The Yaneff Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Vancouver
A.Y. Jackson, “A Painter’s Country: The Autobiography of A.Y. Jackson”, Toronto, 1958, pages 106-108
In July 1924, four years after the formation of the Group of Seven, Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson checked into the Jasper Park Lodge with their sights set on exploring and sketching Jasper National Park. The Park covers a region of more than 10,878 kilometres of terrain. As A.Y. Jackson recounts: “In the summer of 1924 Lawren Harris took his family to Jasper Park and I went along with him, as we planned to do some work for the Canadian National Railway. We did not find the landscape around Jasper Lodges or along the railroad very interesting, and we wanted to get into the big country, so we arranged with the park superintendent, Colonel Rogers, to have our dunnage taken in by the warden’s while we walked in, first to Maligne Lake, and then to the Tonquin.” The pair had a painterly fascination with the scenery they encountered on their hikes, despite the difficult weather of constant rain. The towering features of the Tonquin Valley Ramparts and the wonders of the rugged terrain kept the attention of the artists, with Harris depicting several views of the Tonquin Ramparts. Some sketches, or field studies, were done right on the spot in the mountains. These drawings were central to Harris’s process, capturing elements of the place and recording details regarding colour, light and form – observations to inform his later compositions.

According to Jackson: “There was one hill from which the whole way around the horizon could be seen, a grand panorama of mountains and lakes with stretches of forest and Alpine pastures. From this panorama, we planned a scheme of decoration for a Canadian National hotel or station. Harris took one half and I took the other and we made drawings of it by sections all the way round. Later, when we returned to the East, Harris went to see Sir Henry Thornton about our plan. Thornton was much interested in it but his own position with the railroad became precarious soon after, and nothing came of it.” “Tonquin Valley, Jasper” is one of these panorama sketches - one part of a breathtaking view of the Rockies as recorded by two influential Canadian artists. This sketching trip marked Harris’s first experience in the mountains of western Canada, which would captivate his attention for six years.

We extend our thanks to Alec Blair, Director & Lead Researcher of the “Lawren S. Harris Inventory Project”, for his assistance in researching this artwork.

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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