Featuring A.Y. Jackson in Celebration of the Group of Seven Series

Posted by Tom Thomson Art Gallery | Oct 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 sixth installment in this series of guest posts celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Group of Seven.  Stay tuned for the next few blog posts with two more members of the Group of Seven 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: Alexander Young Jackson


A.Y. Jackson, 3 Dogs and Norah de Pencier, 1966, oil on plywood. Gift of the Estate of Norah de Pencier.

A.Y. Jackson worked in a Montreal lithography firm as a young boy while studying art at night. Later he studied in Chicago and at age 23 left for Paris to travel and study at the Académie Julian.  Returning to Canada in 1910, Jackson completed the seminal piece, The Edge of the Maple Wood, which reflected the effect of his European studies and the Impressionist style. Discouraged at the critical reception for his paintings, Jackson considered leaving Canada. However, in 1913, he received a letter from J.E.H. MacDonald who explained that Lawren Harris wanted to purchase The Edge of the Maple Wood.  After the purchase the three became friends and Jackson met other members of the Arts and Letters Club. He was offered a shared workplace in the Studio Building with Tom Thomson who took him sketching and fishing in Algonquin Park. Jackson enlisted in the First World War but when injured, he became a war artist. He created one of Canada’s finest collections of war paintings, thirty-three of which are in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. After being discharged he re-joined Lawren Harris and other artists in the travelling boxcar studio to the Algoma region where his passion for landscape painting returned. Jackson joined the Group of Seven and was in their first exhibition in 1920 and continued to exhibit with the Group until 1931. Jackson noted that every Group exhibition was met with critical protest; their work at the time was described as garish and ugly. 

A.Y. Jackson, Notre Dame de Paris, around 1909, oil on plywood. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Harold Vaughan, 1969.
After the Group of Seven disbanded, Jackson continued to travel and paint throughout Canada particularly northern Canada and Quebec. He was a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters in 1933. He continued to sketch, exhibit, travel and give talks until he was well into his 80s.
Fun Fact:  When Tom Thomson saw A.Y. Jackson’s The Edge of the Maple Wood in a 1913 exhibition, he said it opened his eyes to the possibility of the Canadian landscape.


The TOM’s Group of Seven Exhibit

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 runs 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.

The Tom Thomson Art Gallery Is 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: