The Group of Seven: Lawren Harris

Greenland Mountains, c1930

Davis Strait Iceberg, c1930

Isolation Peak, c1930

Mt. Lefroy, c1930

Bylot Island, c1930

Bylot Island, South Shore, c1930

Baffin Island, c1930

From The North Shore, Lake Superior, c1927

Lake Superior, c1926

North Shore, Lake Superior, c1926

Lake Superior, Hill XV, c1925

Pic Island, Lake Superior, c1924

Equations in Space, c1936

White Triangle, c1939

Abstract #20, c1942

It would be difficult to understate the influence of Lawren Harris’ abstract landscapes on Canadian identity. As a founding member of The Group of Seven, Harris pioneered a distinctly Canadian school of art that departed from European contemporaries of the same era. Minimal in texture and detail, his grandiose landscapes use sweeping curves and simplified abstract forms to capture a wider, almost spiritual representation of a landscape.

Fairly covering Harris’ entire career in a single blog post is tricky, but what I’ve presented here are the some of his best known works from Northern Ontario (Lake Superior) in the 1920’s and the Rocky Mountains and Arctic during the 1930’s. I’ve also provided a look at some of the more abstract, but less celebrated work he painted during the late 1930’s and 40’s. Overall, I find most of what he painted during these years to imbue a remarkable sense of modernism, and something I’m hoping readers of ISO50 can appreciate.

I know some of you are most likely familiar with the Group of Seven and Lawren Harris, but if not I would love to know what you think and if you find the work inspiring.

Posted By: Owen Perry
Instagram: @circa_1983

If you’re interested watching a black and white interview with Harris, here’s something from the CBC Archives (c1961). Please excuse the commercials.

8 Comments Leave A Comment


JustinS says:

November 18, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Awesome post… my local bookstore has a big thick Group of Seven book with like 350 plates in it… it’s just remarkable stuff. Man, I wish my mind could synthesize color and form like that.


Josh says:

November 19, 2012 at 1:23 am

Wow, I was totally unaware of his abstract work. I’m studying graphic design at OCAD in Toronto and I’ve found that the Group of Seven catches a lot of flack from students in the art faculty. It’s easy to let yourself overlook their work, but this is really great.

I appreciate the post, definitely going explore more of his work.


Owen says:

November 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm

@Josh Almost all of the Group of Seven were originally designers working at Grip Ltd. in Toronto before they began painting.

But yeah, I definitely could see people these days looking down upon The Group of Seven. They’ve certainly been discussed to death in Canada, and that can perhaps make them highly ‘uncool’ in certain segments of the art community.

But honestly, I’m just amazed at the brilliance of the work considering the time in which they were painting. They were going against the grain, and it’s something they took a lot of flack from the establishment for… People laughed and mocked them for what they were trying to do.

If you watch that movie I posted, you can get a sense of this. Harris also offers some sage advice to artists… I love his demeanour.

– O


Conrad Casper says:

November 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I loved how comfortable and confident he was in the interview. I feel like in today’s hipster culture artists are so insecure and afraid to say something that might be disagreeable to an audience or their own [hipster] culture. This probably stems from the fact that most hipsters are not sure why they are creating art in the first place other than to look cool. I could be wrong I suppose. Perhaps we just live in a more timid generation than the one Harris came from. But even up to the question about the afterlife he maintained his overall cheer and sense of humor about life. Pretty cool. And as you said @Owen very sagely. Thanks for posting.


Jon Mutch says:

November 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I feel so lucky to have access to many of his paintings here in Toronto. They’re awe inspiring, and his mountain abstracts are something I keep returning to time after time. Love Lawren Harris.


shane says:

November 21, 2012 at 9:40 pm

This would be my first discovering The Group of Seven, particularly Harris.

Overall, a very thoughtful interview with a great dialogue between the interviewer and Harris. I really enjoyed listening.

@Conrad, yes, I get a sense of that for the comparison of time periods. I’ll go as far to say that no matter what time period anyone may be in, it’s a matter of a total disregard to the status quo and work on what needs to be worked on. Perhaps the awareness of today’s hipster culture is a benefit to oneself, meaning, the awareness itself sets one apart.

I think Harris makes a genuine point about how each of them as an individual artist at his best who thinks of his work as being the best. Perhaps that “best” is of the moment, suggesting it will always change as long as the artist continues to work and produce their best.