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Spacing: The Little House in the Lawren Harris Painting
Ellen Scheinberg and Jim Burant | November 9, 2017

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In search of the elusive Lawren Harris

From Issue No. 263 | November 20, 2017

It's in Yorkville, photo Spacing

In May 2016, a Lawren Harris painting entitled Toronto House was offered at auction, and purchased by a local art aficionado for $115,000. Produced around 1920, this charming, diminutive oil on panel, 10.5 x 14 inches in size, features vibrant colours. Details regarding the owner of the home depicted in this work and its location in Toronto were unknown. Its provenance, however, was irrefutable; the painting had been part of the estate of Harris’s second wife, Bess Harris, and after her passing, owned by his youngest son, Harry K. Harris, until last year’s sale.

Compared to Harris’ dramatic northern landscapes, his Toronto House paintings are less known and appreciated. The purchaser was however very interested to learn more about the work, particularly where the original house might have been located, Harris’s connection, whether it still existed, and if there were archival photographs. We were hired to carry out the research. Due to the absence of a street name, the purchaser understood there was no guarantee of success. Moreover, since so many of Toronto’s workers’ cottages have been demolished, the initial assumption going into this project was that the house in this painting had fallen victim to the wrecking ball years ago.

Surprisingly, our hypothesis proved to be wrong.

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