BlogMarch 30, 2017

Harris Sun, Fog & Ice, Smith Sound


LAWREN S. HARRIS, C.C., LL.D. (1885-1970) Sun, Fog and Ice, Smith Sound (Arctic Painting IV), 1931 Oil on canvas 40 x 50 in. (101.6 x 127 cm.)

Inscriptions: verso: top stretcher bar: in ink, by artist, “SUN, FOG AND ICE / SMITH 3865SOUND” / LAWREN HARRIS / 25 SEVERN ST. / TORONTO; u.l., in ink on printed label, by Doris Mills, DEPARTMENT OF GRAPHIC ART / Title Sun, Fog and Ice, Smith Sound 40 x 50 / Artist’s Name Lawren Harris / Address [crossed out], Arctic Paintings IV (in graphite) VAULT; u.l. corner, torn printed label, MONTR…OF FINE ARTS; top centre, in ink on torn label, 750; t.c., stamped, WALTER KLINKHOFF GALLERY / 1200 SHERBROOKE ST. W. MONTREAL; centre cross bar, u.c., in white chalk, 72; right stretcher bar, u.r., in ink, ROLAND DUMAIS, ARCHITECTE, MONTREAL

Provenance: artist; Fine Art Galleries T. Eaton Co. College Street, Toronto, 1953; private collection, Toronto. Roland Dumais, Montreal; Montreal, Christie’s in Canada, 14 Oct. 1971, lot 72; Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal; private collection, Montreal.

Exhibitions: Toronto, Art Gallery of Toronto, May 1931, Arctic Sketches by Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson, R.C.A., no. 390 as Sun, Fog and Ice, Smith Sound; Vancouver Exhibition, 22-29 August 1931, Exhibition of Paintings and Photography, Sketches of the Canadian North by Lawren Harris, R.C.A. [sic] and A.Y. Jackson, R.C.A., no. 317 as Fog and Ice, South [sic] Sound; Toronto, Art Gallery of Toronto, December 1931, Exhibition by the Group of Seven, no. 64 as Sun, Fog and Ice, Smith Sound $750; Toronto, Canadian National Exhibition, 25 August - 9 September 1939, no. 95 as Sun, Fog and Ice, Smith Sound; Toronto, Canadian National Exhibition, 25 August – 9 September 1950, no. 150 as Sun, Fog and Ice, Smith Sound oil on canvas 40 x 50, Lent by the artist

Literature: E.W. Harrold, “Seventh Group of Seven Show,” The Morning Citizen (Ottawa), 29 December 1931; The paintings of Lawren Harris compiled by Mrs. Gordon Mills, July-December 1936 as Arctic Paintings, no. 4; JeremyAdamson Urban Scenes and Wilderness Landscapes (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1978), pp. 190-195 In August and September 1930



Harris Sun, Fog & Ice, Smith Sound


Lawren Harris travelled to the Arctic with A.Y. Jackson on the government supply boat, the S.S. Beothic. The ship went directly north to Godhaven on the Greenland coast, and then up the coast through Smith Sound to Etah and into Kane Basin, along the coast of Ellesmere Island to Lancaster Sound, around the top of Baffin Island, down the east coast to Hudson Bay and Chesterfield Inlet, then southward along the Labrador Coast to Nova Scotia. As Harris wrote in 1948, “While we were on this trip Jackson and I painted a large number of sketches, although painting was difficult as we usually saw the most exciting subjects while steaming through channels or while being bumped by pack ice. On many occasions we had to take rapid notes. These notes we worked up into sketches, crowded in our small cabin, seated on the edge of our respective bunks with only a port-hole to let in the light.” In spite of the difficulties, the trip was very productive and Harris exhibited thirty Arctic sketches in a joint exhibition with Jackson at the National Gallery in December 1930. (Thirty-eight Arctic sketches were inventoried in 1936).


By the time they showed their Arctic work at the Art Gallery of Toronto in May 1931 Harris had already painted six canvases, including Sun, Fog and Ice, Smith Sound. The subjects of Harris’ Arctic canvases include floating icebergs or coastlines and mountains viewed from off shore. The effects of colour and light range from drab browns and greys to blues and off whites, to evocative studies of the effects of sun and ice as in this canvas painted from a sketch acquired by his friend, the Toronto collector Charles S. Band (fig. 1). Harris remained faithful to the sketch in working up the canvas. The ice and pool of water in the foreground, the open sea beyond, the dramatic movement of the fog rising from the water, the almost three-dimensional pointed clouds moving in from the right and the spotlight effect of sun rays emerging from the sky appear in both. But he has enlarged the height to confirm to the proportions of the canvas and thereby increasing the illumination in what must be the most lyrical and animated of all Harris’ Arctic paintings.


When exhibited in the December 1931 Group of Seven exhibition, E.W. Harrold wrote in the Ottawa Citizen, “The most striking work is still being done by Lawren Harris. Seven years ago, Harris startled the art world with his ‘Above Lake Superior.’ In this Harris threw tradition to the wind. He did not paint a specific stretch of country so much as a summing up of a whole region… Marvellous light effects are obtained in … “Sun, Fog and Ice, Smith Sound.” This picture mocks all our preconceptions of Arctic scenery. Here is no drab desolation but lights and surfaces that play against each other in the most enlivening way. The conception is vastly original. Again this is not a locality, but the sum of locality.” In 1953 this painting was acquired by the couple who had purchased Lawren Harris’ house at 2 Ava Crescent, designed in 1931 by Alexandra Biriukova. The canvas would have been a remarkable complement to the restrained yet lush severity of the house’s Art Deco interior.

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