The Group of Seven Celebration Continues with Alfred Joseph Casson

Posted by Tom Thomson Art Gallery | Aug 27, 2020
Thank you to our guest blogger, the Staff at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery (The TOM), for sharing these stories.

We are pleased to present the fourth installment in this series of guest posts celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Group of Seven. Stay tuned over the next several weeks as each member of the Group of Seven is featured.  

On May 7, 1920, seven Canadian artists held their first exhibition as the Group of Seven at the then Art Gallery of Toronto, now the Art Gallery of Ontario. One hundred years later their names - Carmichael, Harris, Jackson, Johnston, Lismer, MacDonald, Varley - continue to conjure visions of the rugged Canadian landscape. They were bound by their desire to record the Canadian geography in a new and distinctive way. They shunned prevailing European painting conventions and honed a fresh style that has become uniquely recognizable, capturing the character of the true north, strong and free.

Featured Artist:  Alfred Joseph Casson


A. J. Casson, On Clarendon Lake, 1957, oil on wood panel, Gift of the Estate of Jennings David Young, 1999.
A.J. Casson was born in Toronto and spent his youth in Guelph and Hamilton. In 1919, he was given his first job as a commercial artist at Rouse & Mann Limited in Toronto. He worked there as an apprentice to Franklin Carmichael, who would become a major influence on his career. Carmichael brought Casson along on camping and sketching trips and introduced Casson to members of the Group of Seven. He officially joined the Group in 1926 as a replacement for Franz Johnston. For a short period, because of poor health, Casson was confined to working indoors. As a result, he painted numerous still life images and scenes within the greenhouses at Toronto Allen Gardens. Later, after purchasing an automobile, he explored rural Ontario and painted scenes of the small villages he encountered, including Elora and Alton. 

A.J. Casson, Swamp - Sawyer's Lake, 1929, Haliburton, oil on wood panel. Purchased from the Artist and donated to the Gallery from David Jennings Young, 1965.

After the Group of Seven disbanded in 1932, Casson co-founded the Canadian Group of Painters that included several members of the Group of Seven amongst its collective of 28 painters. He also joined the printing firm Simpson Matthews in 1926 and served as chief designer and later Vice President for many years before retiring in 1957 to paint full-time.

Fun Fact:  A.J. Casson won first prize with his poster design in the 1941 Victory Bond contest conducted in Canada during the Second World War.

The TOM's Group of Seven Exhibit

Galleries across the nation will be featuring the finest from their collections from the Group. Here at The TOM we will be showcasing the Gallery’s impressive collection, in a new exhibition, "The View from Here", that will take visitors on a visual tour across the country as experienced by the Group. Beyond the captivating artworks, our accompanying texts will explore the unique connections between the members of the Group and Owen Sound, the legacy of community donors, and the importance of the Gallery’s collection within the larger Group of Seven story. The View from Here will offer an intimate, local perspective on the artists that helped shape the Nation.  The exhibition runs until January 29, 2021.

The Tom Thomson Art Gallery Is Now Open to the Public

In order to protect the health of visitors and staff, a limited number of visitors will be permitted inside the Gallery to 10 people at a time, to allow for physical distancing. This new visitor limit may also mean that when you visit the Gallery you may be asked to wait in line. Additionally, to accommodate new cleaning and health precautions, the Gallery will be reopening with limited hours – Wednesday to Saturday, 12pm - 4pm. Please remember to be patient with staff during this time, as new protocols are being implemented to ensure the safety of everyone.
Note: All visitors are required to wear face coverings (masks) in indoor spaces, including The TOM.
An easy way to remember The TOM’s new attendance limit is “Bring Your Groups of Seven”. Throughout their time the members of the Group changed but their number always stayed below 10, so call your Carmichael, Harris, Jackson, Johnston, Lismer, MacDonald, and Varley and tell them you’re going to The TOM!

For more information about The TOM, visit their website.

Read other blog posts in the series about the Group of Seven: