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Lawren Harris painting could set new record at auction

‘Mountain Forms’ is expected to fetch between $3-5 million


 
An image of Lawren Harris painting in 1920. The image is from the Edward P. Taylor Research Library & Archives, Special Collections, Photographs of Canadian Artists. (Edward P. Taylor Research Library & Archives)

An image of Lawren Harris painting in 1920. The image is from the Edward P. Taylor Research Library & Archives, Special Collections, Photographs of Canadian Artists. (Edward P. Taylor Research Library & Archives)

TORONTO — After the record-breaking sale of a prized Lawren Harris piece last fall, another highly touted painting from the Group of Seven member is headed to the auction block in Toronto.

Heffel Fine Art Auction House estimates the 1926 oil canvas “Mountain Forms” could fetch between $3 million and $5 million — including a 18 per cent buyer’s premium — at its fall live auction Wednesday night.

The canvas could challenge the Canadian art record set in 2002 when Paul Kane’s 1845 oil canvas “Scene in the Northwest – Portrait” sold for $5,062,500, after including the buyer’s premium.

Last November, “Mountain and Glacier” had a pre-sale estimate of just $1 million to $1.5 million before selling for $4.6 million — a new high for a Harris painting.

At the same Heffel auction, Harris’s “Winter Landscape” went for $3,658,000 despite its pre-sale estimate of $1.2 million to $1.6 million.

And earlier this year, “Laurentian Landscape” sold for $2,183,000 at Heffel’s spring auction, about 36 per cent above the high end of the pre-sale estimate.

Those strong sales results combined with the recent high-profile exhibit “The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris,” co-curated by actor-comedian Steve Martin, have experts expecting considerable interest in “Mountain Forms.”

“Every indication is that the painting is going to do very, very well,” said Robert Heffel, vice-president of the Heffel Fine Art Auction House.

“It’s one of those rare masterpieces that come up sort of once in a lifetime. Many paintings of this quality by Harris are in museum collections, and it’s rare for a canvas like this to come to market.”

“Mountain Forms” piece depicts Mount Ishbel in the Sawback Range in the Rocky Mountains. The piece was one of the works featured in Martin’s exhibit, which was presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario earlier this year, as well as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Beyond its recent appearances, the 60-by-70-inch (152.4-by-177.8-centimetre) canvas was also included in a touring exhibition across five U.S. states in 1930 and an exhibition that took place in five major Canadian museums in 2002.

“Lawren Harris is certainly in the global art spotlight at the moment,” said Heffel. “He’s always been a very important Canadian artist, but you could also think of Harris as a very important North American artist.”

“Mountain Forms” is one of 11 Harris pieces on offer at Wednesday’s Heffel auction. More than 200 masterworks will be featured in the live auction, and are expected to fetch between $22 million and $32 million.

Some 90 works from the private collection of Peter and Joanne Brown will be featured in what’s being billed as the most valuable single-consignor collection ever to come to market. The collection includes pieces from Alex Colville, Emily Carr and the Group of Seven, among others.

Tom Thomson’s oil on board “Sleet Storm” — a sketch for a larger canvas in the artist’s collection at the AGO — is estimated to fetch between $1 million and $1.5 million at auction.

Pre-sale estimates for “Country Crisis” by A.J. Casson fall between $600,000 and $800,000.

“Many people have long considered that to be Casson’s most famous painting. That canvas is very, very rare,” Heffel said of the 1940 piece.

“The Browns acquired that in the early ’80s, and it hasn’t been for sale since then. That is a true Casson masterpiece that’s going to do very well.”

Other highlights include:

  •  “Iris bleus, jardin du Petit Gennevilliers,” an 1892 oil on canvas by French Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte
  • “Gaspesie” is by Quebec landscape painter Marc-Aurele Fortin
  • “The Woodpile, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre” by James Wilson Morrice
  • “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by William Kurelek

 

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