Lawren Harris was a founding member and unofficial leader of the Group of Seven, which came together in 1920. In addition to Harris, the Group of Seven included, at various times, Franklin Carmichael, A. J. Casson, Alexander Young Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, Tom Thomson, and F. H. Varley. With Group members, Harris made weekend sketching trips to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. This piqued their interest in painting the northern Ontario landscape. "We became increasingly conscious," wrote Harris, "of the fact that the spirit of the land must be discovered through its own character if there was to be any real life in its art..."
They soon became identified as a nationalistic landscape school that changed Canadian painting by breaking out of 19th-century naturalism. They were committed to the idea of painting Canada, of finding a source of artistic ideas at home. They were interested in painting the land rather than people; people had dominated art before them. And they looked for the essence of Canadian identity in Canada's northern wilderness. The work on this page - Winter Woods, Algonquin Park - is a good example of the landscapes of the Group of Seven. Inspired by the northern Ontario landscape, paintings like this one came to represent Canada symbolically. Images of the woods and snow have become important symbols of Canada. Because they showed our Canadian landscape as distinct and distinctive, and because their painting supported the idea or myth of Canadians' attachment to their land, such works quickly became icons for the young nation. This painting shows Harris' abstract style and his ability to reduce the forms of nature and of the North to their essentials.