We’d Be Healthier To Forget The War

Gas Chamber at Seaford
Gas Chamber at Seaford (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The next Group of Seven painter in the series is Frederick Varley.

Varley was born on January 2, 1881 in Sheffield, England.  He immigrated to Canada in 1912, on the advice from Arthur Lismer and worked at the Grip Ltd design firm, where he met many of the original members of the Group of Seven.

Like a few of his fellow painters, he served in the World War I, came to the attention of Lord Beaverbrook, who in turn commissioned him as a war artist.  Varley reflected his experience in the war onto his paintings.  It was clear that he was disturbed by his experience at the front.  He said, “We’d be healthier to forget [the war], and that we never can. We are forever tainted with its cruel drama.”

In 1920, Varley was a founding member of the Group of Seven.  He and his fellow painters decided to concentrate their paintings to portray Canada’s wilderness that had been damaged by fire or harsh climates.

In 1954, it is interesting to note that along with Eric Aldwinckle, he visited the Soviet Union on the first cultural exchange of the Cold War.

Also of interest, only he and Lawren Harris, painted portraits (as opposed to landscapes).

Varley passed away on September 8, 1969 in Toronto, Ontario, at age 88.

On May 6, 1994, Canada post issued a “F.H. Varley” stamp in the Masterpieces of Canadian art series.


  1. How many times across the eons, and in how many ways, have imaginative minds attempted to ask “Is there another way to be human on this earth?”, and to suggest “there must be another way”. I can’t think of a better project for humanity in the 21stC than to take a stab at “going for the gold” … asking and learning whatever it is we’ve been ignoring or dismissing that would let us explore impulses like empathy and cooperation to see what might develop!


      • It was partly Cameron OHara’s remark on the contrast between the gas-mask situation and pastoral. It struck me that ‘yet again’ – and quite some time ago – we (those who view the painting) are ‘nudged’ to notice just such a contrast. It sure seems to me this century may be humanity’s ‘make or break’ opportunity. You’re welcome, and thanks for keeping Canada ‘real’ for me! 🙂


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