Research Tour October 2011
 

Five hundred miles and eight days of research conducted in 32 degrees Celsius weather prompted me to ask two questions:  was I insane and was the trip worth the effort? The answer to the first was hopefully “no” while the second was an unequivocal  “yes”.  So much pertinent information was gathered and adds to the understanding of Clara’s legacy: her art as history.   But I’d hardly scratched the surface and there was so much more to do.   I knew that my Clara odyssey was in its initial stages.  Little did I know that it would become an obssession.

 

In the summer of 2011 my destination for the next trip was decided for me by someone called “Nancy” who sent these emails:



"I have been searching on and off for years for mention of Clara and Frederick Harris. Finally success. We bought the house on Valleyview Gardens. from Clara in 1974 and lived there until 1992. We have many of Clara's oils and a few of Frederick's watercolours plus sketches and a notebook of Frederick's. Would like to hear from you.

 

We met Clara Harris in 1974, when we were looking at houses and neighbourhoods. Mary Barker was our realtor and she told us she had just the house. As you saw, we have many of Clara and Fred's works. Mary gave us one of Clara's paintings with the purchase of the house. Since we had no art at that time and we admired her work, we bought more from Mary, who had become Clara's agent. Most of what we bought was unframed and so my husband began the long job of mitering, measuring, staining, and painting to frame all the oils and watercolours which we acquired. Frames and colours were chosen from old frames or wood we had to match either the painting or the room."

 

So in October of 2011 Ann and I made a special trip to Toronto to meet Nancy and Terry D. We were looking forward to meeting people who had known Clara first hand. They had established a long-term relationship with Clara Harris.  Such meetings are rare and their information was invaluable. 

 

They graciously invited us into their home. What they said about Clara was enhanced with anecdotal stories, photographs, a diary, art tools and supplies, furniture and a large art collection.  These filled their living and dining rooms.  The dining room table was covered with artifacts.  It was hard to know where to start so Nancy and Terry started at the beginning:

 

 

 

"Clara was sitting very straight in an upright mission style chair ready to meet (perhaps judge) this presumptuous young family wishing to buy her house. Clara's house inside was painted "dusty rose". Every wall, even wood baseboards and window frames, floor to ceiling. The original plate rails had been removed, although a de rigueur feature of all houses in the area. This was to show off her many paintings which hung from floor to ceiling in every room. One variation was "dusty green" in the den. The studio was located in the upstairs front room, which ran the width of the house and faced north. There was very little furniture. The house on Valleyview Gardens. (originally Clinch Ave.) was built in 1923 for Clara and Fred. It is still the only original house in the area that has a very high basement ceiling, which for us was great as we are tall people. Clara was tall too and I suppose this ceiling height was for her as I think she would have wanted everything perfect. Just as an aside, Verna, my great uncle taught at the Banff School for the Arts, my grandmother dabbled with oils, my husband is artistic, a cousin of his painted, an uncle painted and now our daughter is an illustrator. So we truly were the right family for an artist's house. We enjoyed living in that house and always considered it a privilege to have known a contemporary of the Group of Seven."

Wow what a trip!  Because of the long-term relationship that Nancy and Terry had established with Clara the value of Clara’s work as history had grown by leaps and bounds. 

 

What next?

Artist in Trees

Oil on masonite, 10 x 13"

Trees and Stones by the Water

Oil on masonite, 10 x 13", Titled by artist

Cape North, Cape Breton 1929

Oil , 14 x 17", Titled and dated by artist

Vessel From Sweden in Harbour at Bay of Fundy, Parrisboro Harbour, Nova Scotia, Morning, August 5th, 1931
Titled and dated by artist.

Back of painting

 

Cape North, Cape Breton 1929

Sold: $20.00

 

Dory By the Bay

Early Break-up on the Humber River, 1937
Oil on masonite, 14 x 17”
Titled by artist
 

On the Highway Hill Before You Enter Minden, October 1942

Oil on canvas16 x 20”
Titled by artist

Back of painting
Humber River 1937

Back of painting
On the Highway Hill Before You Enter Minden, October 1942

Houses in Snow, Raymond Avenue
Oil on masonite, 14 x 17”
Titled by artist

Buildings and Barn in Snow
Oil on masonite, 14 x 17”
 

Green Boat and Grey Building
Oil on canvas, 20 x 24”
 

Green Boat and Brown Boathouses
Oil on canvas, 20 x 24”
 

Yellow and White Houses in Winter
Oil on board, 14 x 17”
 

Saw Mill with Men and Shed
Oil on canvas, 14 x 17”
 

Stream, Men Sawing Logs
Oil on canvas, 21 x 27”
 

Spring or Early Fall
Oil on board, 14 x 17”
 

Trees and Tracks Over Stream

Oil on Canvas