Lawren Harris is my favourite Group of Seven artist. When I first moved to Canada, the three things I wanted to know were: what is Canadian food, what is Canadian literature, and what is Canadian art? I still remember the blank looks I’d get at the question about Canadian (not American!) food. Some blank stares as well with my other two questions, but inevitably, questions about Canadian art led to the Group of Seven. And while looking through images of Group of Seven works, I found myself always drawn to the works of Lawren Harris.
Later on, I would learn that he believed in theosophy, that he deliberately used light to direct one’s eye toward the divine. At the time, however, I just knew that I loved the cleanness of his lines and the starkness of his colours. His images were bold, graphic, compelling, and when I decided to buy a piece of art to hang on my wall, a framed poster of Lawren Harris’ Mt. Lefroy was the first thing I bought.
So when I learned that Thomas Allen was publishing a biography of Harris, the title went right on my TBR list. Inward Journey by James King is an extensively researched, utterly comprehensive overview of Harris’ life. On one hand, it’s almost too comprehensive — in the author’s attempt to write the definitive text on the artist, the biography sometimes gets bogged down with details, and the narration seems more about providing information than about hooking the reader in.
On the other hand, while not a page-turner, at least for this reader, Inward Journey is a great resource for anyone wanting to find out about Harris’ life. King writes in an objective, journalistic style, presenting the facts of Harris’ life, his marital problems, his personality flaws and his fascination with theosophy, and withholding judgement. As well, King talks not just about Harris as an individual, but rather about the artist’s role within the context of the Group of Seven and the history of Canadian art. There’s a wealth of fascinating information in the book, and certainly, it’s great to see the extent of Harris’ influence on history.
The book itself as well is just a beautiful addition to the collection of any Lawren Harris fan. Printed on glossy paper with full colour reproductions of Harris’ paintings and other artworks throughout, Inward Journey is just a beautiful book, an invitation to flip through time and again, and just appreciate the works.
Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.