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A.Y. Jackson: Artist in the Wilderness

For the week of March 31, 2014

“The obedient in art are always the forgotten.”

- A.Y. Jackson, March 5, 1913

On April 5, 1974, art legend, national icon, and founding member of the Group of Seven A.Y. Jackson died.

A.Y. Jackson’s House of Ypres
© Canadian War Museum / Beaverbrook Collection of War Art / CWM 19710261-0189

Born in Montréal in 1882, Alexander Young Jackson developed an early interest in art, taking weekly classes at the Art Association of Montréal as a boy. Between 1905 and 1913 Jackson fine-tuned his artistic skills while travelling between North America and Europe. He attended the Chicago Art Institute in 1906, the Académie Julian in Paris in 1907, and produced many Impressionist-inspired works inside and outside school.

After years of struggling to sell his work, Jackson’s first painting was bought by wealthy Canadian artist Lawren Harris in 1913. While selling the painting in Toronto, Jackson met the other future Group of Seven painters at the lively Arts and Letters Club.

With the outbreak of the First World War, Jackson enlisted in the infantry, but was soon offered a safer position as an official war artist for Canadian War Records from 1917 to 1919. When the guns of war fell silent, Jackson was free to resume painting with the Group of Seven, which was officially founded in 1920.

A.Y. Jackson’s A Copse, Evening
© Canadian War Museum / Beaverbrook Collection of War Art / CWM 19710261-0189

An outdoorsman, he was well suited for landscape painting and travelled all over Canada to sketch. Jackson and the Group created a new national art form that uniquely depicted the rugged Canadian terrain and influenced artists for years to come.

A.Y. Jackson was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1968, the same year he suffered a debilitating stroke. His condition required him to live out his last years with friends in Kleinburg, Ontario, but his impact on Canadian culture has not been forgotten.

A.Y. Jackson was designated a person of national historic significance in 1974. To learn more about Canadian art and the Group of Seven, please consult Canada on Public Display, The Legend of Tom Thomson, Lawren S. Harris and His Original Landscapes, Farewell to Famed International Painter Lawren S. Harris, and A.J. Casson: the Youngest of the Group of Seven in the This Week in History archives.

This year is the first in the centennial of the First World War. For more information on Canada’s official war art programs, see the Canadian War Museum’s Canada's War Art and Official War Art Collection Page .

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