Artwork by Ted Harrison,  Discovery Day, Dawson City

Ted Harrison
Discovery Day, Dawson City

acrylic on canvas board
signed and dated 1977 lower right; titled on the reverse
18 x 24 ins ( 45.7 x 61 cms )

Auction Estimate: $30,000.00$20,000.00 - $30,000.00

Price Realized $22,800.00
Sale date: June 15th 2022

Ted Harrison Foundation
Ted Harrison, “Children of the Yukon”, Canada/United States, 1984, unpaginated, reproduced
Ted Harrison (Introduction by Robert Budd), “Ted Harrison Collected”, British Columbia, 2015, page 11
As a teacher, school principal, and Chief of the local fire department, Ted Harrison was clearly a ‘people person’. He had a particular kinship with children and much of Harrison’s work attempts to capture the joy of the community and the wonder of childhood. In “Discovery Day, Dawson City”, Harrison captures a weekend-long festival that occurs annually in Dawson City in early August. The celebration centres on the history of the town and the discovery of gold that led to 100,000 people rushing to the Klondike gold fields in the hope of striking it rich. During the celebrations for Discovery Day, people dress in the costume of the ‘Gay 90s’ and are treated to parades, a show in the Palace Grand Theatre, and raft racing.

As an outsider, Harrison was well placed to marvel at the unique qualities that the Yukon possessed. Reflecting on his work Harrison said, “[w]hat I have painted in this book are scenes that have impressed me. It is not a complete picture. Children in the towns of the Yukon do many things other North American children do: they go to school, watch TV, play basketball in winter and baseball in summer. But they also do things children further south never have a chance to do, and this is what I have painted. Not how the Yukon is the same, but how it differs.” Harrison believed that it was the role of the artist to create the image, but the role of the viewer to interpret what they saw. It was part of the reason that the artist did not include faces on his figures. He wanted the viewer to impose the face that they wanted to see. “I treat the people the same as the landscape. They’re natural because they’re in a landscape they feel part of...but I like to feel that people imagine a face in. You know, they can pop their grandmother’s face in.”

All proceeds from the sale of this artwork are being directed to the Ted Harrison Foundation (THF). THF is a registered non-profit organization whose mission statement is to support the ongoing development of the arts, artists, art education/educators and associated programs. You can learn more about and/or donate to the Ted Harrison Foundation by visiting

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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