Brantford, Ontario, Canada
Died January 29, 1970 (aged 84)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Influenced by Tom Thomson
Influenced Robert Genn, Canadian Group of Painters
Lawren Stewart Harris, CC (October 23, 1885 – January 29, 1970) was a Canadian painter. He was born in Brantford, Ontario and is best known as a member the Group of Seven who pioneered a distinctly Canadian painting style in the early twentieth century. A. Y. Jackson has been quoted as saying that Harris provided the stimulus for the Group of Seven. During the 1920s, Harris's works became more abstract and simplified, especially his stark landscapes of the Canadian north and Arctic. He also stopped signing and dating his works so that people would judge his works on their own merit and not by the artist or when they were painted.
In 1969 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.
Lawren Harris was born in Brantford, Ontario into a wealthy family on October 23, 1885. He was the first born of two sons.He attended Central Technical School and St. Andrew's College in Toronto, and then from age 19 (1904 to 1908) he studied in Berlin. He was interested in philosophy and eastern thought. Later, he became involved in Theosophy and joined the Toronto Lodge of the International Theosophical Society. Lawren went on to marry Beatrice (Trixie) Phillips on January 20, 1910, and together had three children born in the first decade of their marriage. Soon after meeting and becoming friends with J. E. H. MacDonald in 1911, they together formed the Group of Seven.
In 1913, he financed the construction of the Studio Building in Toronto with friend Dr. James MacCallum. The Studio provided artists with cheap or free space where they could live and work.
His school-time friend F.B. Housser was married in 1914 to a woman named Bess. Harris and Bess fell in love, but saw no action that could be made. For the two to divorce their spouses and marry would cause an outrage.
Later in 1918 and 1919, Lawren Harris with J. E. H. MacDonald financed boxcar trips for the artists of the Group of Seven to the Algoma region. Another painting trip after Algoma was to Lake Superior's North Shore with A.Y. Jackson. Harris was so passionate about the North Shore and fascinated by the theosophical concept of nature, he returned annually for the next seven years. There he developed the style he is best known for. Harris’s paintings in the early 1920s were characterized by rich, decorative colours that were applied thick, in painterly impasto. He painted landscapes around Toronto, Georgian Bay and Algoma. His first trip to the Rockies in 1924 soon became annual, too, for the next three years. In 1930, Harris’s landscape paintings became simplified as he sailed with A.Y. Jackson aboard a supply ship.
Harris finally left his wife of 24 years, Trixie, and his three children, and married Bess Housser in 1934. Harris was threatened with charges of bigamy by Trixie’s family because of his actions. Later that year he and Bess left their home and moved to the United States. Then in 1940 they moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where Harris entered his abstract phase.
Throughout his life, he never had to support himself as a teacher or commercial artist (as all the other Group of Seven members had to do), but could support himself as a full-time painter. Lawren Harris died in Vancouver in 1970 as a well-known artist. To Harris, art was “a realm of life between our mundane world and the world of the spirit.”
On Tuesday May 29, 2001, Lawren Harris's "Baffin Island" painting was sold for a record of $2.2 million (record up to that time). Before the auction, experts predicted the painting done by one of the original Group of Seven would top $1 million, but no one expected it to fetch more than double that.The painting, which has always been in private hands, depicts icy white mountains with a dramatic blue sky.
Harris's "Nerke, Greenland" painting sold at a Toronto auction for $2 million (four times the pre-sale estimate) on November 24, 2008