Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Group of Seven by Anna Munro

Coming from Canada to the US for school has led to some pretty comical experiences regarding the facts around Canada and the difference between Canada and the US. However, it has also led me to be more patriotic than ever. When we were told about this assignment, I tried to think back of all the artists that I could think of: Van Gogh, Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Monet and all the famous artists the majority of people know. I then remembered taking art class in grade 9 and learning a bit about Canadian art. It suddenly came to me so obviously who I wanted to do for my project. A group that I hoped less people would know about and a group that is representative of where I am from. The Group of Seven. 

The Group of Seven is a Canadian group of painters that began in May, 1920 at an exhibit in Toronto, Ontario. The group consisted of seven members: Frank Carmichael (1890–1945), Lawren S. Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston (1888–1949), Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, and Fred Varley. Johnston retired from the group in 1926, so A. J. Casson (1898–1992) was invited to join. In 1930, Edwin H. Holgate from Montreal joined, and in 1932, Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald from Winnipeg joined. Tom Thomson is often associated with the group as well, although he died before it was formed; however, his work had a great influence on the Group of Seven’s art (3)

The Group of Seven originated in Toronto between 1910 and 1913 at Grip Limited, where multiple of the future members worked as commercial artists. The Toronto Arts and Letters Club also became a place for the future members to meet and join in their frustration against their belief that Canadian art at the time was conservative and limited in character. The Group of Seven believed in giving Canadian art more expression, using a national, independent artistic form by painting the rugged Northern Canadian landscape (3). However the criticism they received is demonstrated in the quotes below:

“They are garish, affected, freakish”
Toronto Star (1)

“A single narrow and rigid formula of ugliness”
Saturday Night, Toronto (1)

The Group of Seven seated around a table at the Arts and Letters Club (2)
Facing opposition to their simplification of form and boldness of colour, the Group of Seven managed to gain support from Eric Brown, the director of the National Gallery and the Group of Seven was projected as a national school. The Group weakened through the 1930s and eventually was broken in the 1950s, replaced by another group called Painters Eleven (3)

Below are a collection of paintings done by the painters of the Group of Seven. It can be seen the purpose of the Group of Seven was to discover and interpret their vast, little known, and according to them under appreciated, homeland (1)

The war also greatly inspired the painters, especially Tom Thomson. The West Wind Pine done by Tom Thomson is of a tree that people believe represents a sacrificial soldier. In comparing the sketch to the final painting it can be seen that Thomson's canvases appear laboured. The tree itself seems to have an aura around it, the contrast of colours and the outlines seem to create this glow (1).  
Tom Thomson
The West Wind Sketch (1) 
Tom Thomson
The West Wind (1)
The pair of pictures below show Tom Thomson's The Jack Pine. The first is his sketch and the second is the final painting. 
Tom Thomson
The Jack Pine Sketch (1)
Tom Thomson
The Jack Pine (1)
In Lawren Harris's Above Lake Superior there is a very prominent foreground with the massive mountain in the background. There seems to be a strict composition in this painting in which Harris is trying to create a mood of timelessness. Harris wanted the painting to lead viewers to contemplate the divine forces in nature and the mysterious experience of "Oneness" (1).
Lawren Harris
Above Lake Superior
Lawren Harris
Winter (1) 
Lawren Harris
Untitled Mountain Landscape (1)
In North Shore, Lake Superior, Lawren Harris strategically places the tree stump directly in the centre of the painting with the rays of sunshine shining down on it giving it a magical glow. Interpreters have seen this painting as exhibiting phallic imagery and this is not necessarily far fetched as Lawren Harris believed in the elemental forces of nature including the basic sexual forces (1).
Lawren Harris
North Shore, Lake Superior (2)

The following painting by A. Y. Jackson is one of my person favourites because I really like the use of red and orange. 
A. Y. Jackson
Red Maple (2)

I really enjoy the works of the Group of Seven because they are landscape paintings, which are my favourite, and I believe they represent the rugged Canadian wilderness magnificently. I feel like they invite me to explore Canada’s wilderness further, especially since I already love being outdoors. 


1. Thomson, Tom, Amy Concannon, and Ian Dejardin. Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. London: Philip Wilson, 2011. Print.

2. Mellen, Peter. The Group of Seven. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1970. Print.

3. David Burnett and Lin Barton"Group of Seven." Grove Art OnlineOxford Art OnlineOxford University PressWeb5 Oct. 2016.<http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T035135>.

No comments:

Post a Comment