Friday, January 22, 2016

Winterscapes From The Group Of Seven

Copyright © Edward Riojas

It’s Winter, and today is a snow day.
“Snow in October”
Tom Thomson. c. 1917.

It doesn’t really matter if the ground is covered with grass or mud where you are –  we’re kicking back and enjoying the snow. This is being made possible by The Group of Seven, who, being Canadian, knew a thing or two about snow.

Emerging after WWI, the group aimed at portraying the rugged landscape of Canada in a unique, nationalist style, while shunning European trends. They were essentially a regional movement exuding a distinct flavor that hovered somewhere between Impressionism and the Arts and Crafts movement. The group’s title is a bit of a misnomer in that a few additional artists joined the ranks later in the game, and one of the founding members died before the group’s official emergence. Included here are works by seven members of the group, along with a piece by founder Tom Thomson.
Lawren Stewart Harris. 1914.
“Coast Mountain Form”
Frederick Horsman Varley. c. 1929.
(National Gallery of Canada, Ontario)

As a tribute to the quiet solitude of Canadian winterscapes, I’ve decided to let the pieces speak for themselves. What follows are a few notes about our select members.

Tom Thomson
It’s a bit odd that the powerful engine behind the group’s formation was largely a self-taught artist, didn’t get serious about painting until he was well into his thirties, and died under mysterious circumstances when he was only 40. Tom Thomson’s most creative period lasted less than a decade, yet today he is celebrated as a national treasure in Canada.
“A Clear Winter”
Arthur Lismer. 1916.
(Art Gallery of Ontario)
“Winter Morning, Charlevoix County”
A.Y. Jackson. 1933.

Lawren Stewart
If Thomson provided the impetus in forming the Group of Seven, Lawren Stewart Harris added heavy-duty momentum. His career lasted well into the 1960s, and his portfolio added immense depth to the movement.

Frederick Horsman Varley
Varley was one of the more unlikely members of the group. While he involved himself in the group’s shows and excursions across Canada, Varley’s background as war artist had a staining effect on his life and work. Varley’s images of the Great War are haunting. It is no surprise that the aritst suffered from bouts of depression, brought on, no doubt, from his exposure to the realities of war. It was no easy task to find a painting from his hand that fits our subject, but I finally found a little gem that now hangs in the National Gallery of Canada.
“Blissett Farm”
Franklin Carmichael. 1933.
“The Shadowed Valley”
Francis (Frank or Franz) Hans Johnston.

Arthur Lismer
His early fascination with painting camouflaged ships apparently was sufficient to garner attention and a subsequent wartime commission. Unlike Varley, Lismer was able to keep the war in perspective, and afterward dove headlong into the group’s genre.

A.Y. Jackson
Jackson was yet another veteran war artist, and one of its founding members. An early journey to Europe allowed him to study Impressionism, and that influence shows in some of his war paintings, including his “House of Ypres,” which has strong hints of Van Gogh.
“Snowshoeing by Moonlight”
J.E.H. MacDonald

Franklin Carmichael
The youngest founding member of the Group of Seven was Franklin Carmichael. As such, he is somewhat of a fringe member and sometimes associated with latecomers to the group. However, he was strongly influenced by founder Tom Thomson and briefly shared the elder’s studio space. Carmichael was primarily known for his watercolors, one of which is included here.

Frank Johnston
This prolific painter was employed as a commercial artist early in his career, as were many of the other group’s members. Johnston’s association with the group was brief, and he amiably parted with them to follow his own interests. The artist was one of few Canadian artists who enjoyed a successful career.

J.E.H. MacDonald
MacDonald was the oldest member of the Group of Seven, and a co-founder who helped forge the distinct style. For his pains, he endured perhaps the worst of art critics, and was a frequent target of their unfavorable reviews.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your review and comments. I think a lot of their work was done en plein aire.