Rare Lawren Harris on the block Monday at...
Bookmark and Share
May 26, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Rare Lawren Harris on the block Monday at Waddington’s auction

Lake Superior Painting X likely to land in top 3 of all-time highest prices paid at auction in Canada


It’s auction season in Canada, and with a lighter load of top-flight auctioneers flogging their wares in the public eye, skimming the cream is a quicker affair.

Waddington’s auction goes Monday; Heffel Brothers’ is Wednesday. (Sotheby’s pulled the plug on its Canadian event in 2013, leaving consignors of “important Canadian art,” to choose between Heffel Brothers and Waddington’s.)

One thing that hasn’t changed, from the gawker’s perspective at least, is that money talks. This season, Waddington’s has the shiniest bauble on offer with a rare Lawren Harris landscape expected to earn up to $3.5 million.

That would be good enough to land it in the top three prices ever paid at auction for Canadian art. It also puts it within distant-but-not-impossible reach of the all-time record of $5.1 million for a semi-obscure Paul Kane portrait, paid in 2002 by eccentric billionaire collector Ken Thomson, who had to have it at any cost. (A Harris sketch, The Old Stump, holds the #2 spot, selling for $3.5 million in 2009; some felt it would topple the Kane record, but fell short).

As for that record? Well, who knows when the next Ken Thomson, whose wallet could support even the most fervent of his desires, might appear? On Monday, when Waddington’s starts the bidding in Toronto, we’ll see. Until then, a few of the top-dollar items, from high to low, on the block for your perusal.

Lawren Harris, Lake Superior Painting X, oil on canvas. Estimate: $2,500,000-$3,500,000 at Waddington’s. The painting, one of several Harris made in the 1920s as he developed his signature style as a Modernist painter, is undated, revealing the mystical flakiness Harris was starting to display at the time, as his interest in theosophy –a kind of universalized quasi-religion pinned to nature-based mysticism – intensified. It suggests the direct connection he felt to the desolate landscapes of the Superior’s north shore, where he began to feel his burgeoning new spirituality most acutely. It’s been in private hands since 1952, when the current owner bought it from Harris’s family.

Lawren Harris, Lake Superior Sketch LXI, oil on board, circa 1926 - 1928. Estimate $500,000-$700,000 at Heffel Bros. Harris did many sketches of the north shore of Superior en plein air in the 20s, taking them back to his studio and transforming the best of them into full-blown paintings. The sketches, much-coveted, are almost an oeuvre unto themselves – first-hand connections to the increasingly-spiritualized Harris as he communed with what he was coming to believe to be a universal force.

Lawren Harris, Street Scene, oil on canvas. Estimate: $400,000-$600,000, at Waddington’s. One of Harris’s paintings of a young Toronto, this one was made in the early 20s as the painter was spending more and more time in the wilderness. Where Harris’s earlier street scenes seemed to ape European impressionism, this work shows the painter’s development of a signature style, seen so much in his wilderness paintings, but in an urban setting.

Jean Paul Riopelle, Pleine saison, oil on canvas, signed and dated 1954. Estimate $400,000-$600,000 at Heffel Bros. The great Quebec abstract painter and Auotmatiste, Riopelle remains at the fore of French Canada’s considerable painting legacy. While his peers, like Paul-Emile Borduas, have gained on him both in stature and price-wise, Riopelle remains a towering figure for his thickly-applied abstract compositons.

Jean Paul Lemieux, La Quebecoise, oil on canvas, signed and dated 1960. Estimate $250,000-$350,000 at Heffel Bros. Lemieux, a Quebec painter of folksy scenes with an oddly restrained, stylistic sense of dread, raised a stir on 2011 when his painting Nineteen Ten Remembered sold for $2 million, setting a price record for Canadian contemporary art at auction. The following year, another painting, La plage americain, came close to topping it, selling for $1.8 million – and this with a pre-sale estimate of $700,000. La Quebecoise shouldn’t come close to that, but with Lemieux, it seems, surprises abound.

Emily Carr, Trees in a Swirling Sky, oil on paper on canvas, circa 1939. Estimate $200,000-$250,000 at Heffel Bros. In December, Emily Carr’s 1928-30 painting The Crazy Stair set a new record for her works at auction, selling for $3.39 million and shocking the crowd, who had been given a high estimate of $1.6 million. Trees in a Swirling Sky won’t approach that, but don’t be surprised if the high estimate of $250,000 looks a little modest when all is said and done.

Toronto Star

Bookmark and Share

(0) Comment

Join The Conversation Sign Up Login

Latest Local News

In Your Neighbourhood Today