Lawren Harris Painting Smashes Auction Record for Canadian Art

'Mountain Forms' sold for a record $11.2 million, more than doubling the previous record.

Lawren Harris, Mountain Forms, (1926). Courtesy Heffel Fine Art Auction House.

Mountain Forms, a 1926 painting by artist Lawren Harris, sold for a record $11.2 million CAD ($8.3 million USD) at Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto last night, making it the most expensive work by a Canadian artist ever sold at auction. To add to its success, the painting was originally estimated at $3 million–5 million ($2.2 million–3.7 million USD). The previous record-holding work was Paul Kane’s Scene in the Northwest (1845), which sold for $5 million CAD in 2002.

The serene 1926 landscape painting depicts Alberta’s Mount Ishbel in the Sawback Range of the Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park. It was most recently included in the exhibition “The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris,” which was co-curated by comedian and avid art-collector Steve Martin, and debuted at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles before moving on to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

In the 1920s, Harris was a member of the Group of Seven, made up of Canadian landscape artists Franklin Carmichael, A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, and Frederick Varley. Later members were A.J. Casson, Edwin Holgate, and LeMoine FitzGerald. Emily Carr and Tom Thomson are also very closely associated with the group.

British art historian Ian Dejardin, director of London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery, has organized Canadian painting shows including Harris and the Group of Seven in the past. He anticipated the painter’s success, telling CBC News yesterday, “Lawren Harris is such a powerful and attractive artist. He is someone who is ripe for appreciation abroad.”

According to Dejardin, exhibitions of these Canadian painters curated by his hand have been wildly popular among Londoners, “inspiring lengthy queues, drawing raves from attendees and also moving on to other European galleries.”

“It’s about time you could see a Lawren Harris at the Tate or the National Gallery in London,” he said. “They buy Scandinavian art, for instance—why not Canadian?”

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