Lot 93A
  • 93A

Lawren Stewart Harris 1885 - 1970

60,000 - 90,000 CAD
bidding is closed


  • Lawren Stewart Harris
  • Untitled
  • signed lower left
  • oil on board


Martin Diamond Fine Arts, New York

Private Collection, New York


The Transcendental Painting Group, The Albuquerque Museum, New Mexico, 1982

Catalogue Note

By the late 1930s, when he and his new wife Bess moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Harris had made his decision to pursue abstract art. The path he followed to arrive at this point in his career was neither easy nor was it short, for it evolved over nearly a decade. Initially, and for a period of nearly two years, Harris hardly painted at all. The changes in his
personal life and his self-imposed 'exile' in the United States were contributing factors to this change, and so too was his finding a group of like-minded painters in Santa Fe.

These circumstances were powerfully reinforced by Harris's deeper and more intense immersion in theosophy. He had been raised by his rigidly Christian Scientist mother and was already groomed to a life in which religion had a major place, and that continued. But to this Harris added first an additional commitment to transcendentalism (Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau), which placed a high value on the spiritual in nature. This form of mysticism was something shared by most members of the Group of Seven. Then Harris delved into theosophy and the fourth dimension, and in New Mexico also was taken by Dynamic Symmetry, a kind of application of a form of theosophy expounded by Emil Bisttram, an artist there. Wassily Kandinsky's  Concerning the Spiritual in Art, also rooted in theosophy, was also a powerful influence.

Against this background is this enchanting and enigmatic painting, with its numerous triangles. In The Logic of Ecstasy, Ann Davis described the importance that the triangle has in theosophy. For theosophist thinker Madame Blavatsky it 'represented the three great principles – spirit, force, and matter; of the active (male), passive (female), and the dual' or binding of the two. Another meaning Davis cites is that the triangle represents an 'upward rush of devotion.'

This composition also follows a spiritual code or plan, in which the earthly order is the viewer in front of but outside the picture plane, the lower section of the painting is a realm of transition, and upper section with the dominant triangle represents the highest level of the spiritual life.

Whether one needs the philosophical backing to appreciate the painting is perhaps debatable, since aesthetically the work stands firm and arrestingly bold on its own intrinsic merits. However, it might never have been created without the knowledge Harris brought to it, nor if he had not been able to enter that rare zone of creative thought and inspiration in which he made such compelling art.