Artwork by Lawren Stewart Harris,  Coronet Mountain, Brazeau Glacier, 1924

Lawren Harris
Coronet Mountain, Brazeau Glacier, 1924

oil on panel
signed twice, titled, inscribed “Not for Sale” (twice), “Bess Harris Collection”, “9” (circled), “78”, “one of 5 sketches made in one day in July 1925 or 6” with a cross in a circle in black ink on the reverse
10.75 x 13.75 in ( 27.3 x 34.9 cm )

Auction Estimate: $400,000.00$300,000.00 - $400,000.00

Price Realized $312,000.00
Sale date: May 30th 2024

Collection of the Artist
Bess Harris, Vancouver
Laing Galleries, Toronto
Jennings D. Young, Toronto, circa 1966
Kenneth R. Thomson, Toronto
Private Collection
A.K. Prakash & Associates, Toronto
Masters Gallery, Calgary, 2020
Private Collection
"The Jennings Young Collection", Tom Thomson Memorial Gallery, Owen Sound, 20 September–15 October 1967, no. 21 as "Brazeau Glacier and Coronet Mountain", 11 x 14 ins, circa 1925
"Small Landscapes by the Group of Seven From the Collection of Mr. Jennings Young", McMaster University Art Gallery, Hamilton, 23 February–16 March 1986, no. 7 as "Brazeau Glacier", 10 5/8 x 10 1⁄2 ins, [sic] 1925-1926
"Lawren Harris: Works from Private Collections", Masters Gallery, Calgary, 22 October-1 November 2016
A.Y. Jackson, 'Artists in the Mountains', "The Canadian Forum", (January 1925), pages 112-114
Lisa Christensen, "A Hiker’s Guide to the Rocky Mountain Art of Lawren Harris", Calgary, 2000, pages 50-54, 132-133 notes 43-62, 128-129, 132, notes 43-44
In the summer of 1924 Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson travelled to Jasper Park and painted at Maligne Lake and in the Tonquin Valley. This was Harris’ first expedition to the Rockies and he was enthralled, initiating his lifelong fascination with the mountains. In January 1925 Jackson described their experiences in the pages of "The Canadian Forum". “We camped at the south end of Maligne Lake on a wide delta of gravel which Coronation Creek is hurling out into the lake. ...[U]p a valley we could see the great Brazeau icefields, and, ... we climbed above timber ... and looked across great rolling pastures to the glaciers that almost cover Mount Henry McLeod and Coronet Peak.”

In her important book, "A Hiker’s Guide to the Rocky Mountain Art of Lawren Harris", Lisa Christensen illustrated two Harris oil sketches depicting the region between Coronet Glacier and Mount Henry MacLeod: "South End of Maligne Lake" in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and "Coronet Glacier Near Maligne Lake" (Private Collection) (see lot 124).

Harris had originally identified three sketches of Coronet Glacier, painted on 10 1⁄2 x 13 3⁄4 inch panels, for inclusion in his 1948 exhibition: 8. "Coronet Glacier, Jasper"; 9. "Coronet Mountain & Glacier"; and 10. "Coronet Glacier". The oil sketch presented here, "Coronet Mountain, Brazeau Glacier", was number nine on that list (as marked on the verso) and is one of the five sketches Harris painted in one day, as he again inscribed on the back of this sketch and on the back of the McMichael sketch.

"Coronet Mountain, Brazeau Glacier" is key to the understanding of the evolution of two canvases by Harris depicting the Brazeau Icefields: the unlocated canvas, "Mountain Glacier, Mountain Painting VIII", as well as "Brazeau Snow Field, Mountain Painting XII", the latter shown in the January 1925 exhibition of the Group of Seven and also offered in this sale.

In the McMichael sketch, the open foreground allows an expansive view of the valley, painted in rich browns and dark greens, and of the glacier and two mountain peaks. The snow on the upper peaks is bordered by blue shadows, and yellow-edged clouds animate the blue sky.

In "Coronet Mountain, Brazeau Glacier", Harris has zoomed in on the glacier. A dramatic diagonal dark brown and green ridge defines the right foreground leading to the rich green rocks lower left. The broadly painted avalanche of snow and ice is framed by a single peak at the right, the shadows painted with a fluid brush in mauve-blues and blue- greens, with greenish-brown snow-covered rocks at the left. Heavy sculpted grey and white clouds move across the sky. Both sketches include the harp-like pattern of snow on the central rocks.

"Coronet Mountain, Brazeau Glacier" served as the source for an unlocated canvas titled "Mountain Glacier, Mountain Painting VIII", measuring 48 x 60 inches and known only from a drawing by Hans Jensen in Doris Mills’ 1936 inventory of the unsold paintings Harris left in Toronto when he moved to Dartmouth, New Hampshire in 1934. The snow- capped rock forms at the left and sweep of snow and ice around the central rocks closely follow the design of this oil sketch, though he included the twin peaks depicted in the McMichael sketch. The clouds appear to retain the solid density and patterning of the clouds in the sketch offered here.

The year 1924 marked a turning point in Lawren Harris’ career. He discovered subject matter that would obsess him for decades and, the following year, possibly to accommodate the scale of his new subject matter, he began to paint on larger panels that were approximately 12 x 15 inches.

We extend our thanks to Charles Hill, Canadian art historian, former Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada and author of "The Group of Seven‒Art for a Nation", for his assistance in researching this artwork and for contributing the preceding essay.
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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