Big Rock, Algoma, c. 1920
Gifted by Margaret Harris, daughter of the artist, to Private Collection as a wedding gift in 1942;
Lawren Harris met the other artists who were to form the Group of Seven through the Arts and Letters Club. He had been a founding member of the Club and had a background very different to the other members of the Group. Harris was born in Brantford, Ontario and was an…
Lawren Harris met the other artists who were to form the Group of Seven through the Arts and Letters Club. He had been a founding member of the Club and had a background very different to the other members of the Group. Harris was born in Brantford, Ontario and was an heir to the Massey-Harris fortunes, which supplied him with an independent income. A wealthy, conservative and religious upbringing in Toronto provided him with many privileged experiences. His education included St. Andrew’s College at the University of Toronto. At age nineteen, he travelled to Europe to study art in Germany for three years. In 1908, he toured through the near East with a writer and had the illustrations he made there published in “Harper’s Bazaar.”
Harris was an enthusiast and organizer. The idea of the Studio Building, where all Group members could work, originated with Harris, who paid three quarters of the cost, while Dr. McCallum contributed the rest. After his discharge from the army, where he taught musketry at Camp Borden, Harris persuaded the Algoma Central Railway to lend him a boxcar and so began the first trips to Algoma. Harris invited artist friends – all expenses paid – and outfitted the boxcar as a studio on wheels with bunks, tables, chairs, a stove, shelves, a canoe and a 3-wheel jigger for short runs up and down the tracks. The last Algoma trip was in 1921. At this time, Harris and Jackson travelled to the North Shore of Lake Superior. Harris became widely known for paintings of this area. Here, the starkness and bareness of the landscape corresponded with the direction in which his paintings were moving.
Lawren Harris was convinced that art must express spiritual values as well as portraying the visible world. To him, the role of the artist and the function of art was to reveal the divine forces in nature. He gradually moved toward greater abstraction and thus more complete expression of his philosophical views. Harris was doing much more than trying to paint the northland as he saw it. His goal was to incorporate his spiritual feeling for the landscape into his work. After 1924, he no longer dated or signed his works because he did not want them to be tied to a specific artist or place. While Lawren Harris continued to explore new ideas, he also continued to be a driving force behind the Group of Seven.