"Baffin Island" painting sold for record $2.2 million

A new record price for a Canadian painting was set on Tuesday night. Lawren Harris's Baffin Island sold at auction for $2.2 million.

Before the auction, experts predicted the painting done by one of the original Group of Seven would top $1 million, but no one expected it to fetch more than double that.

The painting, which has always been in private hands, depicts icy white mountains with a dramatic blue sky.

Harris was one of the group of Canadian painters who invented bold new styles to capture and express in a new form, the country's landscapes and wildernesses. Their works are displayed in galleries across Canada, but never Baffin Island.

"It's never been on the market. It's never been exposed, exhibited, reproduced anywhere. It's absolutely fresh, and for a picture of this stature and quality to come on the market for the very first time is exceedingly rare," said Erik Peters of Joyner Fine Art, who handled the auction.

The man who paid the $2.2 million was media baron Ken Thomson.

It's fitting that a Canadian bought it. Were the painting to be auctioned anywhere else, some experts say, it wouldn't have fetched near that price.

"If this piece were sold in Britain or in Europe right now, it would be sold under the category of topographical art," said Toronto Star critic Christopher Hume. "Lawren Harris is an unknown commodity outside of Canada."

But in Canada, the Group of Seven holds great interest among large numbers of art lovers.

The chief curator of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection where many Group of Seven works are held explains why. "They were very interested in what made the experience that we have as Canadians in your own time and place," said Megan Bice.

"I think that still has meaning as we're looking at what it means to be here."