To kick off 2018, we’re featuring Brantford-born Lawren S. Harris (1885-1970) as January’s Featured Artist, since 2018 will mark the very first Provincial Lawren Harris Day!
Harris is best known for being a prolific Canadian artist who was the impetus behind the Group of Seven; A. Y. Jackson himself was quoted as saying Harris “provided the stimulus for the Group of Seven.”
Lawren was the son of Thomas Morgan Harris and Anna Stewart, and was heir to the Massey-Harris fortune. This affluence led to a privileged life, where he was able to focus on his painting. As a young adult, he attended school in Toronto and in Europe, studying art, biology, philosophy, served in the army, and finally settled in Toronto.
In 1911-12, he met J.E.H. MacDonald and Tom Thomson, became a member of the Arts and Letter Club in Toronto, and continued to meet likeminded artists who sought to increase the interest, awareness, and appreciation of Canadian Art. Harris devoted himself to his art, financing sketching trips for artists, visiting contemporary art exhibitions, and funding artistic projects. One of the projects he financed was the construction of a studio building in Toronto, which provided artists with free and low-cost space to practice their art.
In 1920, Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, Frank Johnston, Franklin Carmichael, A.Y. Jackson, F.H. Varley, and Arthur Lismer officially formed the Group of Seven. The group began to hold almost annual exhibitions of their work in Toronto, continually providing opportunities for the public to learn about Canadian landscape and culture. Together, the Group of Seven created a range of new impressionistic representations of the Canadian landscape, particularly the North.
In December 2017, the Ontario legislature passed a law that designates October 23 as Lawren Harris Day across the province. The effort to recognize this Brantford-born artist was led by Brantford MPP Dave Levac and the Lawren Harris Movement. Stay tuned in 2018 for the very first provincial Lawren Harris Day celebration in Brantford on October 23!