Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lawren Harris, Algoma Hill

Lawren Harris, Algoma Hill, 1920

Lawren Harris (1885-1970) was a Canadian painter and a member of the Group of Seven.  Born in Ontario to a wealthy family of industrialists, Harris studied art in Berlin from 1904-1908.  He became friends with J.E.H. MacDonald and in 1911 the two founded the Group of Seven, who initiated the first major Canadian art movement.  Harris had a very distinct style, depicting simplified natural forms in bright, almost heavenly light.  Often these are winter of mountain scenes.  As his career progressed, Lawrence transitioned into abstract painting.  Many of these pieces resemble natural forms, but he also explored line and shape. Harris's late works combine his styles and present landscapes with the flow and freedom of abstraction.  Algoma Hill was painted during an excursion that the Group of Seven took to the Agloma region of Ontario to paint.  Harris produced another painting from this trip that shows a wide view of the valley.  Agloma Hill is in a rather different style than most of Harris's landscapes, with elongated lines and visible brushstrokes.  Here the purple of the hill dominates the canvas, giving the viewer a sense of sublime wonder.  The colors here are rich and effective—the purple, the red flowers, the green ground, the sky changing from yellow to blue.  Harris also goes to more trouble to show the rocky details of the hill and boulder, successfully depicting the texture of the stone.  This painting was stored in a back closet of a Toronto hospital for many years.  It was essentially forgotten until it was discovered by cleaning staff.  In 2005 it was sold at auction for $1.38 million.

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