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LOT 021

Lawren Stewart Harris

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ALC BCSFA CGP FCA G7 OSA RPS TPG
1885 - 1970
Canadian

Abstraction (Ritual Dance in Spring)
oil on canvas, circa 1961
on verso titled Abstraction on the National Gallery of Canada exhibition label and stamped Lawren Harris LSH Holdings Ltd. 154
51 3/4 x 49 1/8 in, 131.5 x 124.8 cm

CAD

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

PROVENANCE
Collection of the Artist
LSH Holdings Ltd., Vancouver
Estate of the Artist
Canadian Art, Joyner Fine Art, May 23, 2000, lot 111
Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto
An Important Private Collection, Toronto

LITERATURE
Lawren Harris Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Canada, 1963
Bess Harris and R.G.P. Colgrove, editors, Lawren Harris, 1969, reproduced page 113, titled as Abstraction, and listed page 145, titled as Ritual Dance in Spring, dated 1957
Vancouver: Art and Artists 1931 - 1983, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1983, titled as Abstraction, reproduced page 90 and listed page 387
Dennis Reid, Atma Buddhi Manas: The Later Work of Lawren S. Harris, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1985, reproduced page 38 and listed and reproduced page 93

EXHIBITED
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Lawren Harris Retrospective Exhibition, June 7 - September 8, 1963, traveling to the Vancouver Art Gallery October 4 - 27, 1963, titled as Abstraction and dated 1961 - 62, catalogue #78
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver: Art and Artists 1931 - 1983, October 15 - December 31, 1983
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Atma Buddhi Manas: The Later Work of Lawren S. Harris, September 28 - November 24, 1985, traveling in 1986 to the Vancouver Art Gallery; Winnipeg Art Gallery; and Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, catalogue #61

Abstraction (Ritual Dance in Spring) is a lively and exciting composition, full of suggestions of movement and growth. Its warm palette and dynamic forms demonstrate the ability of Lawren Harris to discover new ideas and explore them fully and enthusiastically, constantly expanding the realms of his artistic practice. Painted in the late 1950s or early 1960s, this work sees Harris embracing his interpretation of Abstract Expressionism, which he saw as increasing “the range of possible subjects beyond anything known before.”[1] Harris was perpetually enthusiastic about the evolution of modern art, and his long engagement with abstract painting dates back to the 1920s, well before he transitioned to the realm of non-objective subjects, when he began a long association with Katherine Dreier and New York’s Société Anonyme. This association included arranging for an exhibition of modern works from the organization’s collection at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1927, the first formal showing of abstract art in Canada.

Harris wrote often about abstraction, in particular, considering ways to engage wider audiences with the novel forms of expression, and one facet of his interest was certainly intellectual. Works such as Abstraction (Ritual Dance in Spring), however, demonstrate the emotional and instinctual elements of his commitment to this practice. In this painting we find Harris exercising his boldness and experimenting with composition, embracing a new-found looseness and an impulsiveness that together give the work a vitality not found in his more methodically considered paintings of only a few years previous.

As for many of Harris’s abstracts, there are multiple iterations of this composition, and it can be linked directly to at least four other works. This canvas is the most celebrated of the series, having been included in both the 1963 Retrospective Exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada and in the 1969 book Lawren Harris, edited by his wife Bess Harris with friend Pete Colgrove. The title of this work has varied throughout the years, likely a result of Harris’s own reticence to assign titles. He wrote, “The reason I do not use titles for abstract paintings is that it is impossible to get their meaning into words. A title, therefore, is likely to interfere with the onlooker’s direct response.”[2] In the 1963 exhibition, this work was titled simply Abstraction, and similarly is captioned as such in the 1969 book, though it is later listed in the same book as Ritual Dance in Spring. Two of the related works (LSH 30 and LSH 102) have been occasionally titled Frolic. Although the source of these titles and the inconsistencies are not clear, they are certainly suggestive of the underlying jubilation that radiates from the composition.

Harris’s palette in this work, as with many from this period, trends from his earlier austere blues into warmer colours, and this canvas itself seems to contain a representation of that transition. The coolness and complexity of the lower third of the canvas gives way to the open and vibrant warmth of the irregular orange pattern and large, mysterious yellow form. Suggestions of emerging life could be interpreted, and the thread of connection between the top and lower portions of the canvas is evocative of upward movement and growth. Comparing this work to the earliest version of the motif (LSH 30, oil on board, 25 x 30 inches, private collection), one finds the distinction between the upper and lower components becoming dramatically more pronounced and the yellow form evolving into the dominant element, its importance in expressing the underlying idea of the piece demonstrable. The interpretation of such a powerful depiction, however, is definitively uncertain and malleable, which is almost certainly what Harris would have wanted, for he wrote: “The primary function of art is not to imitate or represent or interpret, but to create a living thing; it is the reduction of all life to a perfectly composed and dynamic miniature—a microcosm where there is a perfect balance of emotion and intellect, stress and strain resolving itself, form rhythmically poised in three dimensions.”[3]

We thank Alec Blair, Director/Lead Researcher, Lawren S. Harris Inventory Project, for contributing the above essay.

1. Lawren Harris, A Disquisition on Abstract Painting (Toronto: Rous & Mann Press, 1954), 11.

2. Quoted in Bess Harris and R.G.P. Colgrove, eds., Lawren Harris (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1969), 104.

3. Ibid., 125.

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.

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ALC BCSFA CGP FCA G7 OSA RPS TPG
1885 - 1970
Canadian

Abstraction (Ritual Dance in Spring)
oil on canvas, circa 1961
on verso titled Abstraction on the National Gallery of Canada exhibition label and stamped Lawren Harris LSH Holdings Ltd. 154
51 3/4 x 49 1/8 in, 131.5 x 124.8 cm

CAD

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

PROVENANCE
Collection of the Artist
LSH Holdings Ltd., Vancouver
Estate of the Artist
Canadian Art, Joyner Fine Art, May 23, 2000, lot 111
Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto
An Important Private Collection, Toronto

LITERATURE
Lawren Harris Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Canada, 1963
Bess Harris and R.G.P. Colgrove, editors, Lawren Harris, 1969, reproduced page 113, titled as Abstraction, and listed page 145, titled as Ritual Dance in Spring, dated 1957
Vancouver: Art and Artists 1931 - 1983, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1983, titled as Abstraction, reproduced page 90 and listed page 387
Dennis Reid, Atma Buddhi Manas: The Later Work of Lawren S. Harris, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1985, reproduced page 38 and listed and reproduced page 93

EXHIBITED
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Lawren Harris Retrospective Exhibition, June 7 - September 8, 1963, traveling to the Vancouver Art Gallery October 4 - 27, 1963, titled as Abstraction and dated 1961 - 62, catalogue #78
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver: Art and Artists 1931 - 1983, October 15 - December 31, 1983
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Atma Buddhi Manas: The Later Work of Lawren S. Harris, September 28 - November 24, 1985, traveling in 1986 to the Vancouver Art Gallery; Winnipeg Art Gallery; and Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, catalogue #61

Abstraction (Ritual Dance in Spring) is a lively and exciting composition, full of suggestions of movement and growth. Its warm palette and dynamic forms demonstrate the ability of Lawren Harris to discover new ideas and explore them fully and enthusiastically, constantly expanding the realms of his artistic practice. Painted in the late 1950s or early 1960s, this work sees Harris embracing his interpretation of Abstract Expressionism, which he saw as increasing “the range of possible subjects beyond anything known before.”[1] Harris was perpetually enthusiastic about the evolution of modern art, and his long engagement with abstract painting dates back to the 1920s, well before he transitioned to the realm of non-objective subjects, when he began a long association with Katherine Dreier and New York’s Société Anonyme. This association included arranging for an exhibition of modern works from the organization’s collection at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1927, the first formal showing of abstract art in Canada.

Harris wrote often about abstraction, in particular, considering ways to engage wider audiences with the novel forms of expression, and one facet of his interest was certainly intellectual. Works such as Abstraction (Ritual Dance in Spring), however, demonstrate the emotional and instinctual elements of his commitment to this practice. In this painting we find Harris exercising his boldness and experimenting with composition, embracing a new-found looseness and an impulsiveness that together give the work a vitality not found in his more methodically considered paintings of only a few years previous.

As for many of Harris’s abstracts, there are multiple iterations of this composition, and it can be linked directly to at least four other works. This canvas is the most celebrated of the series, having been included in both the 1963 Retrospective Exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada and in the 1969 book Lawren Harris, edited by his wife Bess Harris with friend Pete Colgrove. The title of this work has varied throughout the years, likely a result of Harris’s own reticence to assign titles. He wrote, “The reason I do not use titles for abstract paintings is that it is impossible to get their meaning into words. A title, therefore, is likely to interfere with the onlooker’s direct response.”[2] In the 1963 exhibition, this work was titled simply Abstraction, and similarly is captioned as such in the 1969 book, though it is later listed in the same book as Ritual Dance in Spring. Two of the related works (LSH 30 and LSH 102) have been occasionally titled Frolic. Although the source of these titles and the inconsistencies are not clear, they are certainly suggestive of the underlying jubilation that radiates from the composition.

Harris’s palette in this work, as with many from this period, trends from his earlier austere blues into warmer colours, and this canvas itself seems to contain a representation of that transition. The coolness and complexity of the lower third of the canvas gives way to the open and vibrant warmth of the irregular orange pattern and large, mysterious yellow form. Suggestions of emerging life could be interpreted, and the thread of connection between the top and lower portions of the canvas is evocative of upward movement and growth. Comparing this work to the earliest version of the motif (LSH 30, oil on board, 25 x 30 inches, private collection), one finds the distinction between the upper and lower components becoming dramatically more pronounced and the yellow form evolving into the dominant element, its importance in expressing the underlying idea of the piece demonstrable. The interpretation of such a powerful depiction, however, is definitively uncertain and malleable, which is almost certainly what Harris would have wanted, for he wrote: “The primary function of art is not to imitate or represent or interpret, but to create a living thing; it is the reduction of all life to a perfectly composed and dynamic miniature—a microcosm where there is a perfect balance of emotion and intellect, stress and strain resolving itself, form rhythmically poised in three dimensions.”[3]

We thank Alec Blair, Director/Lead Researcher, Lawren S. Harris Inventory Project, for contributing the above essay.

1. Lawren Harris, A Disquisition on Abstract Painting (Toronto: Rous & Mann Press, 1954), 11.

2. Quoted in Bess Harris and R.G.P. Colgrove, eds., Lawren Harris (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1969), 104.

3. Ibid., 125.

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.

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Sale price
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Estimate
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Time, Location
23 Nov 2023
Canada
Auction House
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