Artwork by Lawren Stewart Harris,  Colin Range (Canadian Rockies)

Lawren Harris
Colin Range (Canadian Rockies)

oil on board
inscribed “New Panels 10” on the reverse
10.5 x 13.75 in ( 26.7 x 34.9 cm )

Auction Estimate: $90,000.00$70,000.00 - $90,000.00

Price Realized $72,000.00
Sale date: May 30th 2024

Collection of Howard Harris, son of Lawren Harris
Gift of Howard Harris to Ray Eleanor Staples (Mrs. Everett Staples)
By descent to the present Private Collection, Toronto
A.Y. Jackson, "A Painter’s Country: The Autobiography of A.Y. Jackson", Toronto, 1958, pages 106-107
Bess Harris and R.G. P. Colgrove, "Lawren Harris", Toronto, 1969, page 62
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. At Maligne we borrowed an eighteen-foot canoe and paddled about fifteen miles to the far end of the lake. It was a weird and ancient country of crumbling mountains and big glaciers. Deciding we liked the look of the Colin Range to the east better, we borrowed a horse from the warden, piled all our supplies on him, and climbed to the top of the timber where we camped. The Colin Range was an amazing place, a kind of cubist paradise full of geometric formations, all waiting for the abstract painter.”

The viewpoint in this work is Opal Creek, painted in part of the Colin Range, now known as Queen Elizabeth Range. Harris and Jackson explored this range twice on their 1924 trip. The pair had a painterly fascination with the scenery they encountered on their hikes, despite the difficult weather of constant rain, the wonders of the rugged terrain captured the attention of the artists. Jackson recalls that, “a couple of months at Jasper improved our camping technique and made us active and tough as mountain goats. We would make camp at the timber line and from there climb a thousand feet or so and find miles of undulating county to roam over, When sketching, we would often have to build stone shelters to break the biting winds. We were strong on tea.”

The more Lawren Harris saw of Canada, or the “big country”, as Jackson called it, the more Harris understood. Harris recalled, “After I became better acquainted with the mountains, camped and tramped and lived among them, I found a power and majesty and a wealth of experience at nature’s summit.” "Colin Range (Canadian Rockies)" represents the period when Harris was breaking away from a purely nationalist mandate and working towards a more universal spiritualism. As a type of mystic, Harris may have believed that the mountains, by their sheer physical height and mass, brought him closer to eternity. Harris worked to capture his inner response to this landscape and shape it on canvas. He wanted the paintings to encapsulate his experience of the Rockies. This sketching trip marked the first experience in the mountains of western Canada for Harris, which would captivate the artist’s 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