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Group of Seven Canadian Naturalist Artists Part One of 3


 Tom Thomson The Pool-1915

Group of Seven Canadian Naturalist Artists

Part One of 3

Well, I can honestly say that some of my favorite landscapes were painted by members of Canadian landscape painters known as the Group of Seven.  A bit of a misnomer as there were actually 10 artists affiliated or associated with this group.

Group of seven artists: Frederick Varley, A. Y. Jackson, Lawren Harris, Barker Fairley, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, and J. E. H. MacDonald

The group was formed in 1920 and consisted of seven members – hence the name: Group of Seven. Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frederick Varley.

Arthur Lismer-Isles-of-Spruce-1922

According to Brandi Leigh’s Posting in 2008 on The Art History Archive of Canadian Art

“MacDonald, Lismer, Varley, Johnston and Carmichael all met at Grip Limited – a design firm in Toronto. Jackson and Harris both became acquainted with the group when Lismer befriended them at the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto. This informal group was split up during World War I, when Jackson and Varley served as war artists.

Once the war was over, the informal group reconvened and began to travel throughout Ontario. They sketched landscapes and developed different techniques to better their art. The group was greatly influenced by European Impressionism. It was in 1919 that they began to call themselves the Group of Seven – they couldn’t come up with a name, and so Harris dubbed them the “Group of Seven” and it stuck.

The group was initially funded by Harris – heir to the Massey-Harris fortune – and Dr. James MacCallum. Together they built the Studio Building to serve as a meeting and working place for the new Canadian art movement.

In 1920, the group had their first exhibition. At this time many people considered the Canadian landscape ugly and unworthy of being painted. They were proved wrong however over the next decade by the Group of Seven. The group became known as pioneers to a new Canadian art, finding new and different ways to portray the beauty of the landscapes.

Frank Johnston left the group in 1921 to pursue a job in Winnipeg and a new spot was open for a replacement artist. In 1926, A.J. Casson was added to the group. Members of the group began to travel further across Canada, some visited the west coast, while others went north to the arctic; they were the first artists of European descent to paint the arctic.

The Group of Seven's last show took place in 1931; they had come to realize that people were more open to their art and no longer needed the group to stand up against criticism. “

The Solemn Land by James MacDonald-1921

The Group of Seven’s Eight Members were:

Franklin Carmichael

Franklin Carmichael was born to Scottish-Canadian parents in Orillia, Ontario. Perhaps Carmichael's greatest contribution to the Group was in reviving the neglected art of watercolor painting. He was also a founding member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolor, of which he was president from 1932 to 1934.

 “It is imperative that the artist reveal through the medium in which he is happiest, what he sees, thinks and feels about his surroundings." - Franklin Carmichael.

Franklin Carmichael-Mirror-Lake-1929

Lawren Harris

Lawren Stewart Harris, 1885 – 1970, was a Canadian painter born in Brantford, Ontario, who was one of the best known landscape painters in the Group of Seven.  He pioneered a distinctly Canadian painting style in the early twentieth century.

Lawren Harris-Afternoon-Sun-Lake-Superior-1924

A.Y. Jackson

Alexander Young Jackson, 1882 –1974, began work at age twelve for a Montreal lithography company to help his mother feed the family. Jackson developed an interest in art while working at the lithography company, and he took evening classes to train as an artist. He was a Canadian painter and a founding member of the Group of Seven. He exhibited with the Group of Seven from 1920.  Jackson made a significant contribution to the development of art in Canada, and was successful in bringing together the artists of Montreal and Toronto. In addition to his work with the Group of Seven, his long career included serving as a war artist during World War I (1917–19) and teaching at the Banff School of Fine Arts, from 1943 to 1949. In his later years he was artist-in-residence at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg, Ontario.



Watch for our upcoming  Group of Seven Canadian Naturalist Artists
Part 2 of 3