An introduction to the artists who symbolize the Canadian spirit.
Canada's most renowned artists, the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, celebrated the country's wild beauty. They saw in the untamed land a reflection of the national spirit, and called themselves "adventurers in paint."
For decades, their work has been instantly familiar to Canadians. But in the early part of the 20th century, these artists were engaged in a struggle for acceptance, mocked by critics and the public alike.
In The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, author Anne Newlands explores the ambitions and visions of the artists, capturing the cultural and historical realities of their time and bringing to life their artistic response to the Canadian wilderness. The book is illustrated with 40 color works of landscapes, portraits and urban scenes, as well as black and white archival photographs. Readers are introduced to the artists as well as their locations -- turn-of-the-century Toronto, Ontario's wilderness, the Rocky Mountains and the Arctic.
Writing with insight and enthusiasm, Anne Newlands offers an informative introduction to the lives, the work and the times of these important artists.
Anne Newlands worked for twenty-seven years as an educator and researcher-writer at the National Gallery of Canada. She is the author of numerous books including Canadian Paintings, Prints and Drawings, Canadian Art: From Its Beginnings to 2000, Clarence Gagnon: An Introduction to His Life and Art, Emily Carr: An Introduction to Her Life and Art, and The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson: An Introduction. She is currently writing a book about the Quebec textile artist Mariette Rousseau-Vermette (1926-2006).
They Form the Group of Seven
On a winter evening in 1920, several of the Studio Building artists, along with Frank Johnston, gathered at Lawren Harris's house to discuss their plans for a group exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto. They wondered what they should call themselves. While the artists shared certain ideals about a new approach to Canadian painting, there was no single theme that united their work. The only thing which could be said about all of them was that they were seven artists. Hence, the Group of Seven.
A.Y. Jackson described the Group's organization as "a loose one, no officers, no bylaws and no fees." It was so loose, in fact, that Jackson himself was informed of his membership only upon his return to the city after a sketching trip. Once the Group was formed, the artists' lives continued much as before -- they met for lunch now and then, took sketching trips and, a few times a year, discussed exhibition plans.
The cover of the Group of Seven's first exhibition catalogue was designed by Franklin Carmichael. Its graphic simplicity echoed the directness of the artists' statement that appeared inside. Written by Harris, it stressed that Canada, to be a real home for its people, must have its own art, free from the traditions of Europe. Despite earlier criticism in the press, most of the reviews of the exhibition were positive: Canada at last seemed ready to support its artists.
While the first exhibition displayed a variety of subjects, including street scenes and portraits, the artists generally shared the belief that the northern Canadian landscape represented the spirit of the country. In March Storm, Georgian Bay, Jackson aimed to capture the wild and rugged excitement of the North in a manner that was equally untamed.
At first glance, we cannot imagine a less inviting place -- the cold snow clouds descend toward the horizon, blocking out the late-winter light. The trees in the distance, shaped like the jagged edge of a saw, are bent by the fierce wind, while the water has turned a chilly dark green. Jackson has applied his paint with swift, bold brush strokes, conveying the strength and energy of nature and revealing a new kind of beauty in the bitter climate.
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