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"Lawren Stewart harris: A Painters Progress"
2001-04-14 until 2001-06-17
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Kleinburg, ON, CA

Lawren Stewart Harris: A Painters Progress constitutes the first full-scale retrospective of Harris oeuvre since 1963. Forty-six paintings will trace a career that spanned six decades and was defined by a truly modernist commitment to experimentation and the idea of art as a constant progression. Gritty yet atmospheric scenes of urban life in Toronto and vividly coloured Post-Impressionist streetscapes will comprise the first section of the exhibition, which culminates in Harris magisterial Group of Seven landscapes. The works become progressively more abstract as they reflect a profound and sustained meditation on the natural world and Canadas varied landscapes -- the woods of northern Ontario, the grandeur of the Rockies, and the stark emptiness of the Arctic.

The artist moves slowly but surely through many transitions toward a deeper and more universal expression. From his particular love, and in the process of creating from it, he is led inevitably to universal qualities and toward a universal vision and understanding.

The central section features works from the 1930s and 1940s, the years during which Harris made the momentous shift from idealized views of nature to non-objective compositions that expressed the nature of the ideal. In 1934, at a personal and professional turning point, the artist moved to the United States, settling first in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he was an artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College. By the time he moved to Taos, New Mexico, in 1938, he was already creating entirely abstract compositions. This pivotal section uses the 1939 New York Worlds Fair as a reference point, grounding Harris abstraction and spiritual ideas within the new utopian religion of science and technology promoted by the fair, where Harris and other Transcendentalists exhibited. Harris became the president of the Transcendental Painting Group (TPG) and continued to create abstract, geometric paintings that were influenced by spiritual, as well as formal, concerns. Harris and the other members of the TPG embarked upon a project to create an art inspired by Nature, but bound by what they saw as the immutable laws of a divine, unseen realm.


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