FOR BRANT NEWS
The Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant is proud to announce a wonderful new addition to its permanent collection.
Canadian artist John Topelko has generously donated a bronze bas-relief of Lawren Harris to the gallery. Topelko is a noted artist who has been awarded many Canada Council grants and has a scholarship named after him at Concordia University.
Topelko, a great admirer of Harris, stated: “My portrait of Lawren Harris is my personal homage to a great Canadian.”
Topelko wanted Glenhyrst to own one of the six versions of this portrait because Brantford was Harris’ hometown.
The bronze piece has an interesting history that begins with A.Y. Jackson, another member of the famous Group of Seven.
Topelko first met Jackson at the Banff School of Fine Art in 1949. Later, when they were both living in Toronto, they would often meet on the Yonge streetcar and exchange stories of the Second World War.
Jackson had been a Canadian war artist and Topelko had served on the tribal class destroyer H.M.C.S. Haida, which eliminated 15 enemy ships and took part in the D-Day attacks on Normandy. After the war ended, Topelko attended the Alberta College of Art.
Years later in Ottawa, Topelko was discussing a recently completed relief portrait with a curator at the National Gallery when Jackson happened to see the portrait. Jackson was so impressed he requested that Topelko do a portrait of him in exchange for one of his paintings, an offer that Topelko readily agreed to.
Jackson also mentioned to Topelko that he should do one of Lawren Harris, since there had not been many noted portraits completed of him.
As Topelko remarked: “Despite his patriotism and his considerable contribution to the advancement of Canadian art, very few portraits exist of Lawren Harris.”
Topelko was fortunate to have a student who knew a granddaughter of Harris, who was able to supply reference photographs. The result is the fine piece of artwork that is now hanging permanently on the second floor of the Glenhyrst Art Gallery for visitors to view.
Marcia Lea is the executive director and curator of the Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant.