One Minute Wonder |  Red Sleigh, House, Winter by Lawren Harris

Take a moment to pause, reflect, and learn more about some of the stories behind the rare and special objects held at McGill. ROAAr’s “One Minute Wonder” is a new video series that delves into extraordinary things in McGill Library’s collections in just sixty second flat. We look forward to making more of these shorts in order to showcase treasures and share the sense of wonder that comes along with working with these materials.

Just in time for the holidays, the first one minute wonder narrated by Michelle Macleod, Assistant Curator, Visual Arts Collection, shows a festive red sleigh pulling away from a grand house. This view is framed by curling boughs laden with fresh, white snow and a wrought iron gate. The painting, titled “Red Sleigh, House, Winter” (1919) is by Lawren Harris (1885-1970). It exemplifies a time of transition in the artist’s style: from a painter of cityscapes with visible brushwork and thick layers of colour to a painter of graphic, empty Northern landscapes. Harris would become famous for this latter style of work. The defined brushstrokes in “Red Sleigh, House, Winter” characterize Harris’ cityscapes, but we can begin to see a smoothing out of forms which would define Harris’ later iconic, abstracted landscapes. A prominent member of the Group of Seven and a dynamic, ever-evolving artist, McGill’s Visual Arts Collection is lucky to care for this work by Harris because it demonstrates an important shift in his artistic style. This artwork is currently on temporary loan, along with work by Marian Dale Scott (1906-1993), to the Art Institute of Chicago where they are installed in the AIC’s Arts of the Americas gallery.

How did we make this one minute wonder come alive? The animation was created by Greg Houston, Digitization & New Media Administrator from a single photograph of Harris’ work. Houston explains the process:

AI generated image of Lawren Harris’  Red Sleigh, House, Winter, 1919.

A painting that comes to life requires you to think as a painter. Starting with a blank canvas, you have to imagine the paint being applied as layers. The base coat is the blue sky, followed by central elements such as the house, trees and fountain. The detailing of the fence and branches help frame the composition while the final blanket of snow evokes the perfect wintery scene. The painting technique was created using masks that were shaped as brushes and superimposed over the image. A camera movement was added to give the painting a three dimensional aspect with a final touch of animated snowfall. It was a real treat to work with such a beautiful painting and I hope to see it again in person soon.”

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