“Algoma Sketch” by Lawren Harris

By: Greg Humeniuk

Lot 34 – Lawren Stewart Harris (1885-1970), Canadian. ALGOMA SKETCH, CA. 1920. Oil on panel signed and titled verso. 10.5 x 13.75 in — 26.7 x 34.9 cm. Estimate $80,000-$120,000

By the autumn of 1920, two years after the end of the First World War and three since the death of Tom Thomson, the artists who established the Group of Seven and served in the Canadian War Memorials program had been demobilized and returned to Canada. February of that year, the Art Gallery of Toronto (now, Art Gallery of Ontario) mounted a memorial exhibition of paintings by Thomson, and the Group had its first exhibition at the AGT that May.

In the wake of this turmoil and return to order, the Group continued the expressive painting it began under its earlier nickname, the Algonquin School. Thomson’s presence hovered over the immediate post-war period and most acutely over Lawren Harris’s Algoma sketches like the present, Algoma Sketch. By executing sketches with a brush approximately one-quarter of an inch wide, using intense colours applied thickly and directly, Thomson’s achievements of 1915-1917 resonated in Harris’s work at this moment.

Yet Algoma Sketch is unmistakably by Harris. Where Thomson often defined the horizon with a distant shoreline and a clearly demarcated sky, Harris presents a mass of foliage and geology in greens, greys and hints of autumn in yellow and cadmium red. Wild in appearance, the scene was likely a short walk from the Algoma Central Railway siding where the Group’s boxcar rested. Harris’s is the depiction of distant clouds that comprise a gentle, layered counterpoint in pale blue to his vigorous painting of the boulder and surrounding vegetation.

This sketch is from a vital moment in Harris’s history and that of the Group. In the aftermath of Thomson’s death, the mourning and processing were more than emotional, they were also artistic. Through this ordeal Harris and the Group survived and grew.


About the auction:

Online from May 27-June 1, 2023, The Canadian Fine Art session of The Canada Auction series includes works by Group of Seven members Lawren Harris, A.J. Casson, Frank Hans Johnston, A.Y. Jackson, and J.E.H. MacDonald, which are complemented by work by artists including Charles Pachter, Kazuo Nakamura, Frederick A. Verner, Maud Lewis, René Marcil, Gordon Appelbe Smith, and Pegi Nicol MacLeod, as well as two rare to market paintings by Frederick Loveroff.

We invite you to preview these works in person at our Toronto location, 275 King Street East, 2nd Floor.

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 Tuesday, May 30 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
 Wednesday, May 31 from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm

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Please contact us for more information.

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