Arthur Lismer October 26, 2019
I am especially fond of Canada’s ‘Group of Seven’ painters, many of whom I have spoken about in previous blogs. Arthur Lismer is not as prominent as many of the others, but his art certainly identifies him as one of the major contributors to the ‘Group of Seven’ style.
The Early Years
Born in Sheffield, England in 1885, Lismer apprenticed at a photo-engraving company when he was 13 years old. From 1898 to 1905, he took evening classes at the Sheffield School of Art, while working as a photo-engraver during the day. After further study at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp, Lismer moved to Toronto in 1911. There, he soon met other future G7 artists James MacDonald, Franklin Carmichael, and Tom Thomson. In 1913, Lismer made his first ‘painting’ trip to Georgian Bay, and the following year to Algonquin Park.
The Group of Seven
Collaborating with his peers who would, in 1919, become the Group of Seven, Lismer exhibited that characteristic ‘organic style’ that would embody the group’s work. He became a charter member of the Group of Seven, and joined his fellow artists on trips to the Algoma region, and north shore of Lake Superior. In 1928 he travelled to the Rockies, and in 1930 to the Atlantic provinces. His early Impressionist-influenced paintings gradually evolved into a more angular and cruder expression that he equated with the Canadian terrain he encountered in his travels. And in his later work, Lismer concentrated on detailed foregrounds, and tightly framed, close-up compositions of vegetation and land formations.
The Later Years
Lismer became supervisor of education at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario). From 1940 until 1967, he taught at the Art Association of Montreal (now the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). In 1951, he made his first visit to Vancouver Island. Inspired by the ocean and dense forests of the Long Beach area, Lismer continued to summer there for the rest of his life.
Lismer died on March 23, 1969 in Montreal, Quebec. He is buried alongside other members of the Original Seven on the McMichael Gallery Grounds.