More on the 100 Years of the Group of Seven with Franklin Carmichael

Posted by Tom Thomson Art Gallery | Oct 02, 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: Franklin Carmichael


Franklin Carmichael, Severn Bridge, 1929, watercolour over graphite on paper. Gift of R. James and Barbara Mastin, 2006.

Franklin Carmichael was born in Orillia in 1890 and moved to Toronto in 1911 to study at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University). He supported himself financially by apprenticing at Grip Limited, an engraving firm. It was there that he met fellow artists Tom Thomson, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frederick Varley, whom he would sketch with on weekends. Under the encouragement of Lismer and Varley, he travelled to Antwerp, Belgium in 1913 to study painting at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. When the First World War broke out the following year, he returned to Toronto and shared a space with Thomson at the Studio Building. By 1919, Carmichael was working at the printing company Rous & Mann. In 1920 he became a founding member of the Group of Seven and designed the cover of their first exhibition catalogue.


Franklin Carmichael, An Old Corner Notice Board, around 1943, ink on paper, wood engraving print. Gallery purchase from the Carmichael Estate with funds from the Estate of Mary Isobel Miller, 1994.
Throughout the 1920s, Carmichael made many trips to northern Ontario to paint with Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson and A.J. Casson. He also worked diligently at wood engravings, illustrations and industrial design. He left Rous & Mann Limited in 1925 to work at Sampson-Matthews, a colour printing production firm. In 1932 he became Head of the Graphic and Commercial Arts Department at the Ontario College of Art and worked there until his death in 1945. 
Fun Fact: Carmichael’s first job was to work for his father who was a carriage maker in Orillia, receiving a good part of his early training in design from him.

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: