Lawren Harris

Canadian, 1885–1970

Isolation Peak, Rocky Mountains, 1930
Oil on canvas
42 x 50 in. (106.7 x 127 cm)
Hart House Permanent Collection, University of Toronto

Lawren Harris, a prominent member of Canada’s Group of Seven, was committed to creating a distinct, national art style. He identified the country’s frozen landscapes as a unique source of inspiration and cosmic power. Beginning in 1924, the artist spent four summers in the Canadian Rockies.

In Isolation Peak, Harris presents a distant view of Mont des Poilus in Alberta’s Yoho National Park. The artist’s quest to express the spirituality inherent in nature led him to reduce the mountain’s forms and colors to their most elemental essence.

Dramatically illuminated by no visible light source, the mountain loses it naturalism and becomes a bridge to a higher consciousness. His art reflects the influence of Theosophy, a late nineteenth-century movement that blended the mysticism of eastern spiritual traditions.

In 1930, Harris and the artist A.Y. Jackson traveled for two months aboard an Arctic supply ship to explore Baffin and Ellesmere Islands and the northwest Greenland coast.  In his cabin, by porthole light, Harris painted 50 small oil sketches from pencil drawings that he made with difficulty on deck. These studies became the foundation for the artist’s celebrated Arctic landscapes.