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Collections Story: Lawren Harris – Mount Thule, Bylot Island

July 2, 2024

Lawren S. Harris (1885, Brantford, ON – 1970, Vancouver, BC) , Mount Thule, Bylot Island, c. 1950s (based on a trip to the Arctic in 1930), oil on canvas 

Take a closer look! Can you imagine semi circles, dynamic vertical lines, and wave-like patterns beneath the surface of this work?  

Depicting Mount Thule in Nunavut, one of the highest peaks in the Baffin Mountains, this landscape was originally thought to have been created sometime in the 1930s after Lawren Harris travelled to the Arctic on a sketching trip with A.Y. Jackson.   

In 2023 – prompted by various observations about the work’s surface texture –  the painting was sent to the Canadian Conservation Institute where scientific imaging revealed abstract forms characteristic of Harris’ work in the 1950s hidden beneath the landscape. where scientific imaging revealed abstract forms characteristic of Harris’ work in the 1950s hidden beneath the landscape.  

Harris was constantly evolving as an artist and sometimes reused canvases. This new information suggests he may have returned to one of his earlier Arctic sketches – painting it large in the 1950s over an existing canvas – well after he had moved into abstraction.   

Learn more about this work and its layers :   

Art & Tea at the OAG: Looking Beneath the Layers of Lawren Harris’ Mount Thule, Bylot Island

Photo: May Gao

This program was held on February 11, 2024 at the Ottawa Art Gallery as part of the OAG’s annual Firestone Chat. 

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