Higher States: Lawren Harris and His American Contemporaries

October 7, 2017 - January 7, 2018

Organized by The McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Curated by Roald Nasgaard and Gwendolyn Owens

Caption Lawren S. Harris, Sun and Earth, ca. 1939, Private Collection, © Family of Lawren S. Harris

“I must say that I become more and more convinced that non-representational painting contains the possibility of expressing everything. It takes the expression away from the specific, the incidental and can lift it into another place, where the experience is enhanced, clarified – and it’s great fun – there is so much of adventure in it and an intensity of concentration that I like. ”
Lawren Harris writing to Emily Carr, 1937

From mountains to states of mind, Lawren Harris aimed to always go higher. After his soaring depictions of mountains and icebergs made him famous, the iconic landscape painter and member of the Group of Seven turned to abstraction, seeking to find or create "the spiritual in art." Although Lawren Harris’s career is overwhelmingly defined by his paintings of the northern wilderness, his output as a landscape artist was merely the first stage in his artistic vision quest.

A fascinating character full of contradictions, Harris, perhaps one of the most vocal advocates for a unique Canadian art and identity, left his country for the United States in the 1930s with the intention of never returning. In doing so he abandoned the style of painting that brought him widespread acclaim. Harris’s life and career post-1930 is that of a consummate seeker; Harris sought a new aesthetic approach and to elevate his spirit through art created “directly from inner seeing.” Lawren Harris and his contemporaries were seeking a view into the infinite and the sublime - their artwork was on a cosmic scale. This exhibition also features an important presentation of Harris' American counterparts, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove, Raymond Jonson, and Marsden Hartley. Over 60 works of art make up this exhibition that shows another side of one of Canada's greatest artists.

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