Regional Identity

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Untitled (Mountains near Jasper)
Lawren Harris, Harris, Rocky Mountains, Canadian landscape, Group of Seven, simplified form, shape, spiritual, painting, oil, foreground, landscape, metaphor, Jasper, mountains, cool colour scheme, geometric forms, cubist style, tonal contrast, light , abstract, regional, 2D art, two-dimensional, Group of Seven, mountain peaks, colour palette, landscape, clouds,spiritual search, colour,art donation,
description

To Lawren Harris art was “a realm of life between our mundane world and the world of the spirit.” (Art History Archive) Within this mundane world the Lake Superior landscape, the Arctic and the Rocky Mountains represented more “pure” and “spiritual” places. In the late 1920s he was already moving toward simplified landscapes with a reduced  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)   paletteA slab of wood, metal, marble, ceramic, plastic, glass, or paper, sometimes with a hole for the thumb, which an artist can hold while painting and on which the artist mixes paint. Anything from ice trays to disposable paper or Styrofoam plates might be used as a palette. A pane of glass with a white piece of paper attached to its underside makes a fine palette. It's especially versatile because the color of the paper back can be made to match a painting's ground, making colors easier to choose. The term "palette" may also refer to the range of colors used in a particular painting or by a particular artist. (artlex.com)  that gave many of his works an otherworldly quality.

start quoteArt is the beginning vision into the realm of eternal life.end quote -- Lawren Harris

These characteristics can be seen in Untitled (Mountains near Jasper), from the Mendel Art Gallery collection. (This is one of the works that founder Fred Mendel donated as part of the foundation for the gallery.) Gently rounded dark shapes mound up from the base of the painting, forming a foundation for the white, sharp-edged mountain peaks that leap toward the clouds and the hints of sky at the top of the painting. 

In Untitled (Mountains Near Jasper) light floods over the mountains and the clouds, bringing them toward the  foregroundIn a painting or drawing, the foreground is usually composed of images at the bottom of the frame. They give the appearance of being closest to the viewer.  in the viewer’s eye. The light and the simplified forms of the mountains and the clouds, the main features in the work, give it an ethereal quality that illustrate Harris’s search for the spiritual.

additional resources Things to Think About
Advanced Activity

Social studies link

Consider the appeal of Canadian landscapes as tourist destinations. Do we as Canadians take the beauty of our country for granted? The Group of Seven painters helped to make Canada a famous and desirable travel destination as well as brought the Canadian wilderness to the attention of Canadians.  Since then,  landscapeA painting, photograph or other work of art which depicts scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers and forests. There is invariably some sky in the scene. (Artlex.com) Landscape is also a term that may also refer simply to a horizontally-oriented rectangle, just as a vertically-oriented one may be said to be oriented the portrait way. (Artlex.com)   paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  has prospered and become a popular pastime for thousands of amateur painters.

Focus on Jasper National Park, the location of Lawren Harris’ painting. In conjunction with a geographical/ social studies unit, look at the area from the point of view of a painter. What features would be interesting to paint? How would you interpret them?

Here are some websites with images of landscape in Jasper.

Consider how one art  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  influences or initiates another

A rock band, The Rheostatics, toured Canada and made music as a response to Group of Seven paintings. The following video features some Group of Seven paintings and a journey across Canada with the band.

Consider and discuss the phenomena of the value of art

  • How does art affect the economy? Is this any different than the price paid to some hockey or baseball stars? Did the Group of Seven (or other past or present artists) benefit financially during their lifetimes?
  • What kind of artwork is highly valued today and why?
  • How do we determine what objects are valuable (art or non art)?
  • Go to the following websites for further information:
Online Activity
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This is a scenic photograph from the Canadian Rockies. It is typical of the landscape that inspired Lawren Harris to make this and other similar paintings. But how did he go from how the real location looks to creating it into his very distinctive style? An artist now might just take a photograph and copy it. What are other options?

Try this exercise to help you think about the process:

 

Studio Activity

Design a travel poster

A bit of background “blurb”

When you look at Harris’s painting, does it remind you of a holiday travel poster or brochure? The  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  could represent an idealized dream of the way many people, especially those in other countries, like to think of Canada. The Canadian Rockies is a primary destination for tourists, including Canadians.


Lawren Harris was almost always able to support himself just by making art, but many artists of the same era as Harris, including other members of the Group of Seven. earned their living as graphic designers,. The CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) employed artists to  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  posters promoting travel on their trains and ships. The artists were given free railway passes, and some later were  commissionedA contract between an artist and an individual. The artist agrees to create an image or design for the individual for a predetermined price.  to make work for the railway company. The posters show Canada as an attractive holiday destination. They are stunning as works of art in their own right, even though the artists who made them probably did not regard them as “fine art”.
 
Do these posters conjure up a bygone era of glamourous travel and exclusive luxury-perhaps recalling the Hollywood movie scene in the 1920s and '30s?  Take a look at the CPR  collectionTo collect is to accumulate objects. A collection is an accumulation of objects. A collector is a person who makes a collection. (Artlex.com)  at the Canadian Pacific Railway Archives Graphic Gallery and decide for yourself.  For more information on trains, go to:

Make your own poster

  • In your planning:
  • Decide on the size and proportions of your poster.  Think about what the poster will look like from a distance.  You might try studying billboards when you are travelling somewhere to get some ideas.
  • Decide on style. The method you choose to create your poster will determine this.  Two non-computer examples follow:
  • a simple linocut using flat bright colours without shading (as in drawing).
  • Consider content:
  • How will people travel in the future? Could your travel poster include a method of transport that is new, or one you can imagine (intergalactic for example)?
Studio Activity

Lawren Harris is one of Canada’s best known artists. He was a member of the Group of Seven. Many of his paintings feature the Canadian Rockies and the location of this  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  is Jasper Park, Alberta.

Harris was interested in the cubist movement and eventually this  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  influenced his  landscapeA painting, photograph or other work of art which depicts scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers and forests. There is invariably some sky in the scene. (Artlex.com) Landscape is also a term that may also refer simply to a horizontally-oriented rectangle, just as a vertically-oriented one may be said to be oriented the portrait way. (Artlex.com)  painting. What aspect and style of  cubismOne of the most influential art movements (1907-1914) of the twentieth century, Cubism was begun by Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1882-1973) and Georges Braque (French, 1882-1963) in 1907. They were greatly inspired by African sculpture, by painters Paul Cézanne (French, 1839-1906) and Georges Seurat (French, 1859-1891), and by the Fauves. (Artlex.com)  can be seen in his  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  of mountains? Try to find and compare examples of Harris’ earlier and later work. Go to the following web sites to find more about Harris and view his work.

References

Author unknown.  ‘Lawren Harris Biography.’  Art History Archive.  Retrieved from the Internet on May 7, 2008 from:  http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/canadian/Lawren-Harris.html.

Author unknown.  ‘Lawren Harris.’  McMichael Canadian Art Collection.  Retrieved from the Internet on May 7, 2008 from:  http://www.mcmichael.com/collection/seven/harris.cfm.

Brandon, Laura.  Art or Memorial? The Forgotten History of Canada’s War Art.  Calgary, Alberta:  University of Calgary Press, 2006.

Harris, Bess and R. G. P. Colgrove, eds.  Lawren Harris.  Toronto, Ontario:  Macmillan of Canada, 1969.

Murray, Joan.  ‘Harris, Lawren Stewart.’  The Canadian Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from the Internet on May 7, 2008 from:  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0003597.

Murray, Joan.  Lawren Harris: An Introduction to His Life and Art.  Toronto, Ontario:  Firefly Books, 2003.

Newlands, Anne.  Canadian Art from its Beginnings to 2000.  Willowdale, Ontario:  Firefly Books, 2000.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning