1926 Lawren Harris painting 'Mountain Forms' could chase auction record | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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1926 Lawren Harris painting 'Mountain Forms' could chase auction record

"Mountain Forms," an iconic 1926 Rocky Mountain canvas by Group of Seven member Lawren Harris is seen in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heffel Fine Art Auction House MANDATORY CREDIT
November 22, 2016 - 2:09 PM

TORONTO - A year after the record-breaking sale of a prized Lawren Harris painting, which more than tripled pre-sale estimates and set a new watermark for the Group of Seven member's work, another highly touted piece is set to go on the auction block.

On Wednesday night, the 1926 oil canvas "Mountain Forms" could challenge the Canadian art record set in 2002 when Paul Kane's 1845 oil canvas "Scene in the Northwest - Portrait" sold for $5,062,500, after including the buyer's premium.

Heffel Fine Art Auction House has given "Mountain Forms" — which depicts Mount Ishbel in the Sawback Range in the Rocky Mountains — a "conservative" estimated value of between $3 million and $5 million, including an 18 per cent buyer's premium.

Harris paintings have been known to sell well above projections.

Last November, "Mountain and Glacier" had a pre-sale estimate of just $1 million to $1.5 million before selling for $4,602,000, a new high for a Harris painting. At the same Heffel auction, "Winter Landscape" went for $3,658,000 despite its pre-sale estimate of $1.2 million to $1.6 million.

Those heady sales results combined with the recent high-profile exhibit "The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris," curated by actor-comedian Steve Martin, have experts expecting strong interest in "Mountain Forms."

"I think that people have become even more aware of who he is," said James King, author of "Inward Journey: The Life of Lawren Harris," referencing the impact of Martin's championing of Harris's work.

"The sales of Harris have been very, very good for a long time, depending on the period they come from. A lot of people don't like the late work, the abstraction, pure abstractions. But there's been a lot of interest for a long, long time of these works that combine realism and abstraction."

Anne Whitelaw, associate dean of research in the faculty of fine arts at Concordia University, said the time period when Harris created "Mountain Forms" is described as the peak of his production. The mountain works of Harris and other Group of Seven members, while slightly less known, are "being rediscovered in an interesting way," she added.

"The connection ... with northern Ontario tends to be people's default reaction or imagining of the Group of Seven. But many of them actually travelled across the country and their subject matter is much more diverse than what we might initially think," said Whitelaw, also an associate professor of art history.

"This is a good example of a work of Western Canada that's gaining some interest."

"Mountain Forms" will also attract interest because of its sheer size, Whitelaw said.

"It's a massive work. We're not talking a small sketch here," she said of the 60-by-70-inch (152.4-by-177.8-centimetre) canvas.

"I think that there's an interest for it. Paintings of that scale and that period — and it's a lovely painting — I think there's a strong likelihood it will fetch at least $3 million, if not more."

"Mountain Forms" was one of the works featured in Martin's exhibit, which was presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario earlier this year as well as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Beyond its recent appearances, the canvas was also included in a touring exhibition across five U.S. states in 1930 and an exhibition that took place in five major Canadian museums in 2002.

"He was trying — as he did throughout his entire life — to find his spiritual centre, and when he came to the portrayals of the mountains especially, he combines realism and abstraction in an incredibly wonderful way," King said of the work.

"It's not how a mountain would appear to our eyes if we were to look at it," King added. "He's stripped it down and made it very abstract."

"Mountain Forms" is one of 11 Harris works on offer at Wednesday's Heffel auction.

"Mount Robson from Berg Lake" has a pre-sale estimate of $600,000 to $800,000, "Mount Odaray from Lake McArthur / Rocky Mountain Sketch CXXV" is pegged at $500,000 to $700,000, and "Colin Range - Mountain Sketch LV" is set at $400,000 to $600,000.

Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated there were 10 Harris works being auctioned Wednesday; in fact, 11 were on offer.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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