By the early 1920s, when the Group of Seven was formed, Harris had developed into a magnificent landscape painter, transforming the powerful forms of nature into works of force and elegance such as Above Lake Superior (c 1924) and Maligne Lake (1924). In these and other paintings he reduced the shapes of mountains, shoreline, trees, lakes and clouds, always parallel to the picture plane, to their essentials for an austere, monumental effect. He painted for 5 successive autumns in Algoma and Lake Superior (1917-22), in the Rockies from 1924 on, and in the Arctic in 1930. As artist-in-residence at Darmouth Coll, NH, he moved progressively through drawing into nonobjective art. In Santa Fe, NM, he worked with Dr Emil Bisttram, leader of the Transcendental Group of Painters, which Harris also helped found in 1939. His Vancouver work (1940-70) continued to explore abstraction inspired by the rhythms of nature. Harris's belief in theosophy is intimately linked to his development as a nonobjective artist. Through abstract paintings, such as Abstract Painting No 20, many of which use forms from landscape, he sought to portray a binding and healing conception of the universe - to make the sublime visual. His paintings have been criticized as being cold, but in fact they reflect the depth of his spiritual involvement. His world view makes him unique among Canadian painters, although his philosophy kept him aloof from spontaneously created art - a crucial factor in later painters' abstraction. Nevertheless, his landscape paintings, such as Lake and Mountains (1927-28) and some of his abstractions, are among the icons of Canadian art.
In his own lifetime Harris was the subject of 2 retrospectives, in 1948 and 1963. In 1978 the Art Gallery of Ontario held an exhibition, Urban Scenes and Wilderness Landscapes, 1906-1930. In 1982-83 a national travelling exhibition of his drawings was held. The bulk of his work is found in the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, and the MCMICHAEL CANADIAN ART COLLECTION, Kleinburg, Ont. In Nov 1987, a 1929 sketch for Mountains in Snow: Rocky Mountain Paintings, No. VII sold for $150 000, a record for a Canadian sketch. In the spring of 1999, a Lawren Harris canvas, Lake Superior III, was sold for $960 000 plus the buyer's premium of 10%, setting a record for the sale of a Canadian painting.
Author JOAN MURRAY
Links to Other Sites
Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery
This website showcases the unique art collection of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven at the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery. It also offers related biographies, chronologies, and commentaries on specific paintings.
Discover compelling stories about outstanding Canadian artists and some of their monumental works of art. From the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and the Virtual Museum of Canada Teachers' Centre.