Lawren Harris painting Mountains East of Maligne Lake fetches $3M at auction

Mountains East of Maligne Lake, a 1925 Rocky Mountains canvas by Group of Seven co-founder Lawren Harris, fetched $3 million in Toronto on Wednesday.

Dramatic 1925 Rocky Mountains canvas depicts peaks near Jasper, Alta.

A detail from the Lawren Harris canvas Mountains East of Maligne Lake. The Group of Seven co-founder painted it in 1925, a year after travelling to Jasper with A.Y. Jackson. (Heffel Fine Art Auction House)

Mountains East of Maligne Lake, a 1925 Rocky Mountains canvas by Group of Seven co-founder Lawren Harris, fetched more than $3 million in Toronto on Wednesday.

The bidding war for the painting took place at Heffel's annual fall auction of Canadian art, held Wednesday evening at Toronto's Design Exchange.

The hammer fell at $2.5 million, with the final price — including auction house premium — at $3,001,250.

Measuring about 103 cm by 133 cm and still in its original frame, the dramatic mountain landscape depicts peaks near Jasper, where Harris and A.Y. Jackson had visited in 1924. 

The oil-on-canvas painting was one of eight Harris artworks featured in Heffel's most recent sale. Though part of a private U.K. collection since 1959 — when a British collector working in Toronto originally purchased it from influential art dealer Blair Laing — it's also been on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery, where it was on loan for the past decade. Heffel also offered Study for Mountains East of Maligne Lake, the graphite sketch Harris created as the groundwork for the later painting.

Wednesday night's sale comes after the landmark auction, last November, of the 1926 Harris canvas  Mountain Forms. That work obliterated the record for the priciest Canadian artwork ever sold at auction when it fetched more than $11.2 million — more than doubling the earlier record, set in 2002, for Paul Kane's  Scene in the Northwest – Portrait of John Henry Lefroy.  

The Brantford, Ont.-born Harris has traditionally achieved strong prices at auction, but in recent years, his work got an additional boost after American actor-comedian Steve Martin co-curated The Idea of North, a well-received exhibit of his paintings. Mountain Forms, which was from the collection of Imperial Oil, had been part of the show.

With files from Jessica Wong