News that actor-comedian Steve Martin is co-curating a major exhibition of Lawren Harris underscores the rising international interest in Group of Seven art. Accolades for the rebellious group of Canadian painters poured in two years ago when Dulwich Picture Gallery mounted an explanatory show in London, triggering a flow of stories by British journalists who trekked to Canada in search of the wilderness that inspired the quirky crew.
Many Canadians can name their favorite Lawren Harris – mine is a toss-up between Bylot Island (above) and North Shore Lake Superior (below). But outside Canada, Group of Seven works until recently were largely unknown. Harris paintings in particular are serious business now, shooting up in value around the time of the London show.
Martin – a long-time art collector – is developing an exhibition of Harris pieces from the 1920s and ’30s, aiming to introduce the sharp-edged, spiritually inspired works to an international audience. The show will open at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in fall 2015, tour the U.S., then go to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
Martin once told Time magazine: “Collecting art is my biggest hobby … this art is so different from what I do that it’s an escape for me.” The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas hosted an exhibition of his holdings in 2001, including works by Picasso, Seurat, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and David Hockney. The Art Gallery of Ontario says Martin believes Lawren Harris is “an overlooked artist of great accomplishment and significance.”