An artist I admire: Lawren Harris

Before I moved to Canada, I hadn’t really heard of the Group of Seven. Come to think of it, I’m not really sure where I did first hear about them, but whenever it was, I became a fan of Tom Thomson’s work. While my own work is very detailed and strives to be as realistic as possible, I’ve always had great admiration for those who can paint more loosely, and still really capture colour and light. I’ve tried, and I just can’t do it! So a few years ago I decided to embrace the tiny brushes of realist painting, and just appreciate those who can paint more loosely.

Lawren Harris was not one of the Group of Seven I was a fan of originally. The works of his that I’d seen were very stylised, too ‘synthetic’ (if that’s the right word!) for my taste. So I tended to skim over him and look at other Group of Seven artists. But then I made a trip to the Nova Scotia Art Gallery in Halifax, just last month. They are having a special deal at the moment where NS residents can get in for free, so I decided it was high time I paid a visit and went in for a look around. I hadn’t seen any Group of Seven paintings in person before, and I wasn’t even sure if they had any there, but they did. And my favourites were by Lawren Harris! Here are a couple of the ones I liked best (my own photos, from the gallery).

Lawren Harris: Snow on Trees (1915)
Lawren Harris: Toronto, Old Houses (1912)

Both of these were painted in the 1910s, and as I looked at more of his work I found that, generally speaking, it was his pre-1920 work that I connected with. In case you’re not familiar, here is one of his post 1920 pieces:

Lawren Harris: Mt Lefroy (1930)

I’m sure you can see the difference! I love the simplicity and rawness of his earlier work; how he really captures a realistic landscape, and the feeling of light, with broad loose strokes. I mean, look at the painting at the top of this post (“Winter Landscape with Pink House”). Wow! The colours blow me away, the way he has captured the light, and the feelings he evokes with such simple shapes. His later work is too graphic, too stylised for me. I think I am the exception though, as it’s his later work that seems more sought-after.

As is common, I would have bought a print of “Snow on Trees” from the gallery shop to take home, but of course they didn’t have one. It used to be a running joke between my mum and I when we would visit galleries and museums; they would never have prints or postcards of the art that we liked best! I’m hoping I can track one down online somewhere.

I’m going to try to share more posts on artists that I admire, both contemporary and historical. So more like this to come!