Artwork by Lawren Stewart Harris,  Study for “Lake, North Labrador”

Lawren Harris
Study for “Lake, North Labrador”

inscribed with the artist’s notations; inscribed “308” on the reverse
7.75 x 10 ins ( 19.7 x 25.4 cms ) ( sheet )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$10,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $11,400.00
Sale date: November 22nd 2021

The Yaneff Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Vancouver
Jeremy Adamson, “Lawren S. Harris: Urban Scenes and Wilderness Landscapes 1906-1930”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1978, page 190
Steve Martin, Cynthia Burlingham and Andrew Hunter, “The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris”, Toronto/Los Angeles, 2015, page 92
In 1930 Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson boarded the Royal Canadian Mounted Police supply ship and ice breaker, the S.S. Beothic, for its 9,000-mile expedition to the remote communities of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. This two-month trip allowed the artists to visit various sites in the Arctic, with a few excursions to sketch on land. For Harris, the Arctic was the epitome of the north. The allure of the landscape provided infinite inspiration. As Cynthia Burlingham notes, “The more than thirty oil sketches and six canvases that he created from this voyage marked a very influential time in his painting career.”

The north country always had a magnetic attraction for Harris. While roaming the land on their excursions from the Beothic, Harris brought his sketchbooks to document his environs. The drawings that Harris executed on this trip reflect the artist’s technical process of direct observation, as much as the development of “a more symbolic mode of representation”. Harris utilized these drawings to sharpen and perfect the final compositions, adding and removing elements, adjusting colour and tonality.

This study in pencil for the completed canvas, “Lake, North Labrador” was inspired by the last leg of their journey - when the Beothic began her return to Sydney through the straits and proceeded southward along the Labrador coast. Harris recorded various notations in this sketch of the distant mountains and shorelines surrounding the polar sea. “In effect, the whole setting is the essential symbol,” states Jeremy Adamson, “It was the epicentre of the ‘spiritual replenishment’ of the North as he conceived it. He had reached the top of the continent, the very source of the cosmic ‘flow’ and the locus of the soul’s ‘simple vision of high things.’” This Arctic excursion of 1930 was Harris’s last trip to the north, signifying a turning point in his career towards the realm of pure form.

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