The Group of Seven was, perhaps, the single most influential factor in the development of 20th Century Canadian art. A.Y. Jackson, was one of its founding members.
A.Y. Jackson was born on October 3, 1882 in Montreal, Quebec. His father abandoned the family, so, at age twelve, Jackson went to work at a lithography company to help his mother feed the family. It was here that he acquired his interest in art, and began his training to become an artist by profession.
In 1905, Jackson made his way to Europe to continue his studies. Upon returning, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1907, he returned to Europe to study impressionism with Jean-Paul Laurens at the ‘Academie Julien’. It was in Paris in 1910 that he produced one of his first major pieces entitled “The Edge of Maple Wood”.
The War Years
At the outbreak of the war, Jackson joined the Canadian army. He was wounded in 1916, however, and finished out the war with the Canadian War Records branch, where he created pictures documenting important war events. Afterwards, until 1919, he worked for the Canadian War Memorials as an official war artist.
The Group of Seven
Upon leaving the service, Jackson returned home, but soon became discouraged with the art scene in Canada, and planned to move to the United States. However, his art soon caught the eye of Lawren Harris, who invited him to move to Toronto and join with other artists soon to become known as the 'Group of Seven'. Jackson accepted the offer, and soon became an important advocate of the new, uniquely Canadian, impressionistic style.
For the duration of his life, Jackson continued to travel, and mentor other young artists. For example, he was a founding member of the Beaver Hall Group in Montreal, which uncommonly included eight women artists.
In 1941, Jackson received an honorary doctorate from Queens University. Then in 1943, he spent six years teaching at the Banff School of Fine Arts.
In 1953, he received another Honorary doctorate from McMaster University. He later received another two honorary doctorates from the University of Saskatchewan, and from the University of British Columbia. In 1967 he became a companion of the Order of Canada. A.Y. Jackson passed away on April 5, 1974.
The influence of the Group of Seven is certainly evident in my own work, too!