Celebrating the 100 Year Anniversary of the Group of Seven with The TOM

Posted by Tom Thomson Art Gallery | Jun 25, 2020

Thank you to our guest blogger, the Staff from the Tom Thomson Art Gallery (The TOM), for sharing these stories and photos.

Introduction and Background Info

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.

Galleries across the nation will be featuring the finest from their collections from the Group. At the The TOM in Owen Sound, the Gallery is showcasing the Gallery’s impressive collection. A new exhibition, “The View from Here”, will take visitors on a visual tour across the country as experienced by the Group. Beyond the captivating artworks, the 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” offers an intimate, local perspective on the artists that helped shape the Nation.  The exhibition is on until January 29, 2021.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as, in this series of guest posts from the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, each member of the Group of Seven is celebrated and several of their works, which are featured in the Gallery’s new exhibition “The View From Here”, are highlighted.

Featured Artist: Arthur Lismer


ARTHUR LISMER, Pacific Coast, 1962, oil on canvas. Purchased from Artist with funds from the Warrilow Family in honour of Miss Dina Warrilow's 100th Birthday, 1965.
Arthur Lismer loved to draw from an early age and won a scholarship when he was 13 to attend evening classes at the Sheffield School of Art (now the Sheffield Institute of Art at Sheffield Hallam University). He later attended the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp, Belgium before returning to Sheffield and working in the commercial arts. Lismer immigrated to Toronto in 1911 and soon joined the engraving firm, Grip Limited, where he met fellow artists J.E.H. MacDonald and Tom Thomson. He also met Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson at the Arts and Letters Club. With his new colleagues he began to take trips to Georgian Bay and Algonquin Park to camp and sketch. He also travelled several times to the summer home of art patron, Dr. MacCallum, on Georgian Bay.

From 1916 to 1920, Lismer lived in Halifax and served as the Principal of the Victoria School of Art and Design (now NSCAD University). He returned to Toronto in 1920 to take over the vice-principal job at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University) and resumed his painting trips to Georgian Bay and Algoma alongside his colleagues. In May 1920, he exhibited sixteen of his paintings in the first Group of Seven exhibition.

ARTHUR LISMER, Georgian Bay, 1952, oil on plywood. Bequest of Norah de Pencier, 1974.

Lismer was always drawing and filled numerous sketchbooks. In addition to his landscapes, he was also well known for his deft caricatures of friends, acquaintances and critics. He continued to paint throughout his life but increasingly his primary career became that of an educator.  From 1927 to 1938 he designed art-education courses for children at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario) and from 1941 to 1967 at the Art Association of Montreal (now the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts).
Fun Fact:  To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Group of 7 in 1970 Canada Post selected Lismer’s Isles of Spruce for the six-cent stamp.


The Tom Thomson Art Gallery will be reopening to the public on Wednesday, July 29!

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, include 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 on The TOM, visit the website.

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