Lawren Harris

On Cally Layton Lake, Algoma, 1918

oil on board
10.75x14 in.

signed lower left
titled and signed to verso

G. Blair Laing, Toronto;
A.K. Prakash, Toronto;
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary;
Private collection, Calgary

Lawren Harris: Works from Private Collections, Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary, Oct. 22 – Nov. 1, 2016

Cally Layton Lake is likely so-named for the owner of the small cabin we see, peeking through the dappled colours of the fall forest in this delightful 1918 Lawren Harris Algoma work. That year, on the heels of his discharge from the army in May, Dr. James MacCallum famously took Lawren Harris to Algoma to help him cope with the trauma of the war. In addition to his own experiences, Harris had lost his only sibling Howard, who was killed in action. The wound left by the death of Tom Thomson the prior year was still raw, and Harris suffered a breakdown of some sort, likely (under today’s diagnostics) to have been depression. Nature, suggested MacCallum, was the answer. Indeed it was, as the beauty of the Canadian landscape of Algoma in autumn took hold of Harris’s senses, and compelling him to paint. While research does not reveal a place either now or then called Cally Layton Lake, in the cottager’s oral history of the many unnamed lakes in the region, small bodies of water were often informally referred to by the names of the cottagers nearby. Regardless of the source of the place name, Algoma was a source of healing for Lawren Harris, and the inspiration for many exciting panels. Not only was it beautiful, especially so when seen through eyes seeking something positive to gaze upon, but it was a change from Algonquin Park, where Harris had worked before the war, and where Tom Thomson had met his premature end. Exploring the freshly revealed landscape visually renewed Harris’s faith in humanity, gave him a sense of purpose, and drove forward the desire to express something new in Canadian Art. Thus, Algoma is fundamentally intertwined with the formation of the Group of Seven.

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…