Essay On Lawren Harris

1510 words - 7 pages

Lawren Harris: North Shore, Lake Superior

Lawren HarrisNorth Shore, Lake Superior (1926)Oil on canvas 102.2 x 128.3 cm Purchased 1930 National Gallery of Canada (no. 3708)Lawren Stewart Harris (1885-1970) was a leading landscape painter in Canada and the United States. His was the main driving force that brought together and joined the varying talents and temperaments which formed the Group of Seven in 1920 and in the 1930s he helped to organize the Canadian Group of Painters and the Transcendental Painting Group in New Mexico. Harris worked hard to support the development of the arts in Canada, and he became an influential figure whose paintings are currently quite popular and valuable then and today. He gave new vision to representations of the northern Canadian landscape. Harris spent three years studying in Germany (1904-07), where he became interested in theosophy, a mystical branch of religious philosophy that influenced his later paintings. Coming from a wealthy family he was able to devote himself entirely to his art. He was influenced by theosophical beliefs and ideas throughout his life, so much so that one might say that he re-imagined theosophy through Canadian art.North Shore, Lake Superior is an oil painting on a 102.2 cm x 128.3 cm canvas. Harris used calm soothing cool colors, such as light blues, white, grey, and a little amount of brown in this vibrant painting. He was influenced by the Russian Kandinsky's CONCERNING THE SPIRITUAL IN ART and he subsequently incorporated symbolic color into surfaces of his work. The yellows and blues held a mystical significance; yellow for intelligence and blue for conveying spiritual illumination. The background of Lawren's painting shows soft snow covered hills. The right upper corner is covered with grey white fluffy clouds which then spread out horizontally through the canvas. In the foreground, there is a tree trunk at the shore of the lake, placed right at the centre of the painting. The tree is stripped bare of its leaves and branches. The frost and the icy winds of the Arctic have smoothed its rough bark but the texture still looks quite smooth. There is a long slit running vertically across the trunk. In spite of its weakened condition, the tree stump looks solid as it stands with its roots held firmly in the ground. There is a very enhancing presence of light in the form of bright sunrays descending from the left corner of the picture. The light illuminates the shadow of the hills and the screen of clouds. The rays of light falling on the slit of the tree trunk give it a three-dimensional effect. The combination of vast space, muted color tones and the mystical rays of light give the painting a mesmerizing effect of unity.Lawren Harris made numerous paintings inspired by the primitive landscapes of northern Canada. "North Shore, Lake Superior," painted in 1926, is one of his most memorable works. In the fall of 1921, Harris made his first trip to the north shore of Lake Superior; he was accompanied by a member from the Group of Seven, A.Y. Jackson. It was believed that the region's dramatic, primordial landscape would be the answer to search for a deeper spiritual meaning. Perhaps, the bold landforms of the Rockies and the Arctic would capture the spiritual essence Harris was looking for. Throughout the decade Harris continued to further simplify and abstract his landscapes until his subjects became non- representational.Lawren Harris was a follower of theosophy and was fascinated by every aspect of nature. They weren't only imitations of nature but they represented a deep symbolic meaning for Harris. He became widely known for paintings he did in the area. Here, the bluntness and bareness of the landscape corresponded with the direction in which his paintings were moving. I think Lawren Harris was convinced that art must express spiritual values as well as portraying the visible world. Because of his special connection with nature, Harris believed that the role of the artist and the function of art were to reveal the divine forces of nature. He gradually moved toward greater abstraction and thus more complete expression of his philosophical views. I think Harris was doing much more than painting what he saw, he was trying to include his spiritual feelings for the landscape into his work. Which is why, after 1924, he no longer dated or signed any of his works because he did not want to be tied to a specific artist or place.His work became less and less of a relation to the human world and further towards landscapes of the Rocky Mountains and the arctic and this led him to abstraction. Harris then became involved with the Transcendentalist group in Taos, New Mexico. The abstract paintings he did there were completely different type of form, and had created a profound influence on the practise of abstraction in Canada. The Lake Superior landscape was admirably suited to Harris' purpose; although foreboding physically, it was, by virtue of its isolation, a "pure" and "spiritual" place and inspired Harris to create and explore new ideas and forms of art.Harris' own personal struggle to become an artist was long and complex, and he was beset by much confusion throughout his life. North Shore, Lake Superior made him achieve his creative peak, he turned his back on representational art and spent the remainder of his career becoming an abstract painter. In his later years, Harris' abstractions became more organic in form but continued to express his theosophical beliefs and ideas throughout his life, so much so that one might say that he re-imagined theosophy through Canadian art. It is even believed that Harris' painting was actually a metaphorical representation of the major discord that Canada was going through in that time.Lawren Harris was one of the major leaders of Canadian art for many decades. His life spanned eighty-five years and in that time his philosophy constantly moved him to explore new approaches towards his existence, and his art. "North Shore, Lake Superior" is a striking illustration that captures a person's wondrous mind with its inevitable pull. Lawren Harris has demonstrated immense competency in capturing the beautiful North shore of Lake Superior. This painting is currently housed at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.Works Cited"Lawren Harris Biography & Paintings - The Group of Seven." The Art History Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <>."Lawren S. Harris." National Gallery of Canada. National Gallery of Canada, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <>.Michael Stoeber. "Theosophical Influences on the Painting and Writing of Lawren Harris: Re-Imagining Theosophy through Canadian Art." Toronto Journal of Theology 28.1 (2012): 81-103. Project MUSE. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <>.Ontario Arts Council. "Tom Thomson Art Gallery." Lawren Stewart Harris. Owen Sound, Canada, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <>. Michael Stoeber. "Theosophical Influences on the Painting and Writing of Lawren Harris: Re-Imagining Theosophy through Canadian Art." Toronto Journal of Theology 28.1 (2012): 81-103. Project MUSE. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <>. "Lawren S. Harris." National Gallery of Canada. National Gallery of Canada, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <>. Michael Stoeber "Lawren Harris Biography & Paintings - The Group of Seven." The Art History Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <>. Ibid. Ibid. Ontario Arts Council. "Tom Thomson Art Gallery." Lawren Stewart Harris. Owen Sound, Canada, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <>. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Lawren Harris Biography & Paintings Ontario Arts Council


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