Lawren Stewart Harris

LATE SUN, NORTH SHORE, LAKE SUPERIOR, 1924

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Lawren Stewart Harris (1885-1970), Canadian

LATE SUN, NORTH SHORE, LAKE SUPERIOR, 1924

signed; signed, titled and inscribed verso
10.5 x 13.75 in — 26.7 x 34.9 cm


June 01, 2023

Estimate $300,000-$500,000

Realised: $270,750

Late Sun, North Shore, Lake Superior, the only known study in private hands related to the National Gallery of Canada’s shimmering Afternoon Sun, North Shore, Lake Superior (1924, NGC no. 3351) appears at auction for the first time after being in a notable private collection for generations. The NGC canvas was purchased in 1926, the year after its appearance in the Group of Seven’s fourth exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now, Art Gallery of Ontario) in early 1925. Another oil study, Last Gleam, North Shore, related to the present lot and the NGC canvas was acquired by the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery in 1974.

When Harris and Franklin Carmichael visited the North Shore of Lake Superior in the autumn of 1924, it was his fourth trip following four consecutive sketching campaigns in Ontario’s Algoma region 250 kilometres southwest.

Accepting Charles C. Hill’s hypothesis that the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Harris canvas Above Lake Superior (AGO no. 1335) was painted in 1924 and not around 1922, Late Sun, North Shore, Lake Superior and its related canvas become increasingly important in Harris’s career,[1] along with his challenging Rocky Mountain painting, Maligne Lake, Jasper Park (1924, NGC no. 3541) that came from his first trip to the Rockies in July of 1924. The three canvases and studies from 1924 appear simplified, even abstracted in their elimination of detail, compared to the Algoma sketches such as Algoma Sketch (lot 34 in this auction) of a few years earlier.

These 1924 works have underlying geometric structures that heighten the compositions’ abstraction and resolution via the device known as dynamic symmetry. Its best known scheme is the ‘golden section.’ In the late 1910s and early 1920s the theory was refined and promulgated by the Canadian-born intellectual Jay Hambidge, about whom Harris surely knew via a mutual acquaintance. Hambidge’s ideas were also widely discussed in scholarly literature and the popular press.

The compositional rigour coupled with Harris’s prior trips to the North Shore of Lake Superior and his recently completed first sketching trip to the Rockies primed him to see and analyse the light and terrain anew. The view extends indefinitely beyond the horizon and is heightened by light pouring in from the left like floodlights from stage right. Harris’s heightened sensitivity to the atmospheric effects of light refracted through late afternoon air on a warm early autumn day is much more than a description of landscape. It is a metaphysical account of landscape and being that propelled his landscape painting for nearly a decade more until he dedicated himself to abstraction. Even then, a sketch like Late Sun, North Shore, Lake Superior is as beautifully balanced as any abstraction, and balanced between its terrestrial object and celestial subject.

[1] Charles C. Hill, “Lawren Harris, Morning Sun Over Hill, Lake Superior (Lake Superior Sketch XXV), 1922, oil on Beaverboard [sic], 26.4 x 34.6 cm (10-3/8 x 13-5/8 in.),“ in Lawren Harris & Canadian Masters (Montreal: Alan Klinkhoff Gallery, 2017), 34.

Lawren S. Harris, Last Gleam, North Shore, date unknown, oil on wood panel, 26.0 x 34.5 cm. Collection of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound, bequest of Norah de Pencier, 1974, by permission of the family of Lawren S. Harris

Lawren S. Harris, Afternoon Sun, North Shore, Lake Superior, 1924, oil on canvas, 101.7 x 127.6 cm. Purchased 1926, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo: NGC, by permission of the family of Lawren S. Harris


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