The Group of Seven

Northern Landscapes by the Group of Seven

In 1920, J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Franklin Carmichael, F.H. Varley and Frank Johnston officially formed this now famous group. These were painters bitten by the Canadian north who, for the first time, took on the task of painting the great power, scenery and spirit of their land. This truly Canadian art movement was started, not by professional painters, but by a loose association of acquaintances who travelled north from Toronto on their vacations to paint and relax. The modern Canadian so called ‘school’, was inspired as the result of a direct contact with nature itself.

Back in Toronto after the war, the artists made several sketching trips to the vast Algoma region of northern Ontario. It was there that Harris, MacDonald and Jackson in particular found inspiration for some of their greatest paintings. Algoma was still a wilderness where travelling was difficult. On their earlier excursions the artists moved around by canoe. Harris had the idea of renting a boxcar from the Algoma Central Railway and had it shunted on to sidings near choice sketching locations and this became their new method of transportation, not to mention temporary home.

“The nights were frosty but in the boxcar with the fire in the stove we were snug and warm. Discussions and arguments would last until late in the night…”

A.Y. Jackson, A Painter’s Country

“It is a tireless country… always inviting you to climb the next peak, enticing you away, farther away from the problems which were born in the valley… one returns with a clearer vision and many of the fool worries have been sweated out of you.”

F.H. Varley, letter to Dr. Mason, April 15 1929

“The waves have been magnificant the last days, such a thundering crash and roll–the rattle of the pebbles in the backwash of the waves. And the whole place is so solitary, like Crusoe’s coast, so that you almost resent a footprint in the sand…”

J.E.H. MacDonald, quoted in Paul Duval, The Tangled Garden: The Art of J.E.H. MacDonald

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