Mt. Hood and Mirror Lake
Unframed: 16 3/16 x 30 1/2in. (41.1 x 77.5cm) and Framed: 19 7/8 x 34 3/16 x 1in. (50.5 x 86.8 x 2.5cm)
Museum Purchase, Dr. and Mrs. T. Marshall Hahn, Jr. Fund
Acc. No. 2004.102.1
A landscape with a snow-covered mountain peak dominating the distance. The foreground consists of a body of still water in which the mountain, trees, and animals are reflected. The right side of the middle ground appears to have been ravaged by fire; here, except for one tree near the water, all are bare of branches and leaves, and the ground is bare and rocky. Two eagles perch in the dead trees. The left side of the middle ground retains much more greenery, and four deer stand near the shoreline, the two nearest the water being reflected in the water.
The present 2 1/2-inch flat, weathered wood frame was added to the picture by former owner Donald Tonn about 1960.
Label:The magnificent scenery of the Pacific Northwest enthralled Steve Harley, and he made it the subject of four of his five known oil paintings. He executed two views of Oregon's towering Mount Hood and dated both August 22, 1927. They were taken from widely separated vantagepoints, however, and are quite different in mood.
A broad expanse of water fills the foreground of this version, its stillness capturing the infinite quietude of the place. Yet utter peace seems elusive here. The fire-ravaged right half of the middleground strikes an ominous note, and the mountain dominates the scene in a manner that is both humbling and menacing. One measure of the success of Harley's work is its effective conveyance of a sense of Nature's unfathomable power and mystery.
The painting is of biographical interest as well, for an inscription on the back not only identifies the site of this scene; it also gives a Grand Rapids, Michigan, address. After his sojourn on the West Coast, Harley lived in Grand Rapids for a year or two before returning to his home in Mason County, Michigan. His interim address on this painting raises the possibility that he began his western landscapes on site but completed them later, back in the Midwest, presumably working from photographs as well as sketches and memories.
Provenance:From the artist to Donald C. Tonn (1923-2002); to his widow, Martha Tonn, AARFAM's source.
It is unclear whether Harley gave or sold the painting to Donald Tonn, and the date it changed hands is unknown. Donald Tonn's parents were Albert Tonn (1890-1971) and Ida J. Tonn (nee Wagner) (1889-1977). The elder Tonns took up residence on Harley's Mason County, Michigan, farm beginning in 1924 or 1925, i.e., before they took legal possession of it in 1927. The Tonn family remained close to Harley, even after they moved off the farm and into Scottville.
Inscription(s):In light-blue paint, hand-lettered on the reverse, is: "Mt. Hood & Mirror Lake Ore./From/Hood Loop Highway Aug. 22, 1927./By S. W. Harley/Grand Rpids [sic] Mich./343, union Ave. S. E."
The joints of the stretchers are all numbered "1," "2," "3," and/or "4." That is, each of two contiguous stretchers bears the same number at the ends where they touch, apparently so that they could be matched up correctly.