Group of Seven … or is that ten?

English: Six of the Group of Seven, plus their... Six of the Group of Seven, plus their friend Barker Fairley, in 1920. From left to right: Frederick Varley, A. Y. Jackson, Lawren Harris, Fairley, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, and J. E. H. MacDonald. It was taken at The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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I’ve been busy putting together posts about Canadian painters, as you’ve seen.  As promised, my “pièce de résistance” is the Group of Seven.  Today’s post is of the group as a whole.  In the next few days, I will post about the artists themselves.

They were a band of Canadian landscape painters, during the 1920 to 1933 years.

The original seven painters consisted of:

  1. Franklin Carmichael
  2. Lawren Harris
  3. A.Y. Jackson
  4. Frank Johnston
  5. Arthur Lismer
  6. J.E.H. MacDonald
  7. Frederick Varley

Later, A.J. Casson was invited to join the group in 1926; Edwin Holgate became a member in 1930; and LeMoine Fitzgerald joined in 1932.

Emily Carr was working closely with the group, but was never an official member.  The other famous painter often associated with the group is Tom Thomson.  Thomson was an inspiration for many of the group, but he died before the group became official.

Thomson, MacDonald, Lismer, Varley, Johnston, and Carmichael  met one another while  working for the design firm Grip Ltd, in Toronto.  In 1913, A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris joined the group of artists.

Financial support came from Harris, and a Dr. James MacCallum.  Together they built a Studio Building in the Rosedale ravine in 1914.  MacCallum also land on Georgian Bay, near Algonquin Park, and these became a place where artists often met for inspiration.

Unfortunately, the group did separate during World War I.  Jackson and Varley were official war artists.  After the war, they met up again.  In 1919, they had decided to create an official group, and soon began calling themselves the Group of Seven.

By 1920, they held their first exhibition.  Some of the encouragement and support they received came from Eric Brown, who was the director of the National Gallery.  There were mixed reviews, but in short order they found fame and recognition.

After Frank Johnston left the group in 1926, A.J. Casson became a new member.  When J.E.H. MacDonald died in 1932, the group announced that they had disbanded.  A new association was formed, to be known as the Canadian Group of Painters.

Six members of the group, along with four of the artists’ wives, are buried at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in a small patch of consecrated land, which is bordered by trees.  They are A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, Lawren Harris, Frank Johnston, and A.J. Casson.

The National Gallery of Canada compiled a retrospective show of the group in 1995.  The Canadian rock band Rheostatics were commissioned to write a musical score for it.  You can find that music on their album, “Music inspired by the Group of Seven.”

I suppose that some of the criticisms of their art was that they would paint areas seemingly untouched by humans, but in fact these same places were habituated for many years.  Personally, I do not care about this, I think their paintings are beautiful and that is what art is about.  Isn’t it?

You can find the Group of Seven’s large collections at the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Ontario), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario) and at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario).

Some of the recognition they received were:  Canada Post issued “The Group of Seven” stamps on September 18, 1970.  Canada Post issued stamps,each depicting, art from all ten members on June 29, 1995.  The Royal Canadian Mint issued 7 pure silver coins, each one depicting each artists’ works, in 2012-2013.

If you would still like to learn more, I recommend the CBC Archives, and the Canadian Encyclopedia.

23 comments

  1. I love the art of the Group of Seven. I saw an exhibit of their work a few years ago and it was amazing. I am so glad you are writing about them.

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  2. Emily Carr wasn’t officially part of the Group of 7?? Huh! I guess that’s why they say, “Emily Carr and the Group of Seven,” haha. She does have a permanent place in the Vancouver art museum, however. 🙂

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    • I’m not surprised. She was really good. And I had assumed Thomson was a part of them … Amazing the assumption we do, eh? Carr would have been part of the group if she wasn’t a woman … 🙂

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