March 15, 1917 Lawren Harris Likes Van Gogh

March 15, 1917

Lawren Harris likes Van Gogh.

He spoke of Van Gogh during his time in Berlin. If I hadn’t known otherwise, it seemed like Lawren had actually met Vincent himself. If it were case, I’m sure that he would have given Vincent a few dollars and a bottle of whisky to make it to month’s end. Truthfully, I am also fascinated by Van Gogh. I learned what I could from the books at the library, but Lawren gave me the real tips he learned in Europe.

Lawren was part of our group of painters. Lawren and Jim MacDonald, always close friends since I’ve known them, originally conspired to form the “Canadian Vision” as Jim called it. I last saw Lawren when he visited me last spring, just before he enlisted. He was supposed to go for active duty, but something happened and he was turned down and now he is a gunnery officer in the camp in Barrie.

I remember Jim and Lawren talking about their trip to Hunstville and Burk’s Falls. It would have been the “Canadian Tragedy” were it not for Jim’s aunt doing the cooking for them. Her house was in Burk’s Falls and served as a base for their winter painting expeditions in 1912. It was a ways from the grandiose estates on the Muskoka Lakes, the distance being a hardship to those not used to being more than a finger’s distance from a bellhop ring. I’m teasing. Both Jim and Lawren are tough boys, but it can be hard to paint in the hinterland in February. The woodsman in me had enough sense to come back to the city for colder months of the year.

More importantly, Lawren became my banker. He ended up managing my financial affairs, because I never really had the disposition to put my money on account – I would leave it lying around in bills, and it would disappear faster than I reckoned. Lack of money really wasn’t an issue, except when I needed more paint. Then Lawren would say to go to the shop and put the paint on his account. He’d knew I’d be good for the obligation, in kind or in cash.

As for painting, Lawren likes dreamy moods in his colours. He would soften up the light but I was the total opposite. I told him dreams were for the bedroll and I liked to paint it like it is. It’s hard to be dreamy when your life is in your hands when you paint.

1 thought on “March 15, 1917 Lawren Harris Likes Van Gogh”

  1. I was not aware of the link to Burk’s Falls. I too have used that village as a home base when I painted with Lawrence Nickle. He said my work reminded him of Van Gogh meeting Tom Thomson… a couple of patrons have said the same thing. The best complement I have ever had, if only it could be true.

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