Thursday, January 28, 2016

Blame Canada

The Canadian artist Lawren Harris was being given some serious attention in LA when we passed through recently. He was a member of the Group of Seven who in the 1920s set the tone for modern Canadian painting in the same way that Colin McCahon and Rita Angus did here later. Looking at Harris’s paintings McCahon certainly came to mind and there may well be a direct connection too because in 1938 The Exhibition of Contemporary Canadian Paintings toured New Zealand proving very influential. We know, for instance, that the 30-year old Rita Angus was very taken with the painter Emily Carr. And you have to wonder whether the 19-year old McCahon saw the works by Lawren Harris in the exhibition. Leo Bensemann certainly became a fan boy, but perhaps McCahon found Lawren's striking landscapes an inspiration. In 1939, a year after the Canadian exhibition toured, McCahon turned up with his stripped down painting Harbour Cone from Peggy's Hill. Surely the spirit of Harris is walking on those Dunedin beaches. Onto the research agenda with it.

Images: Top, left Lawren Harris Lake Superior 1928 and right detail. Bottom Colin McCahon Harbour Cone from Peggy's Hill