I’ve been spending time researching the Group of Seven and the Canadian War Art Program since coming back from Rimini, Italy in April. I was moved by the Canadian War Memorial there. Looking out into the Italian Hillsides that normally inspire my painting, I realized that some great Canadian painters had painted the scenery in very, very different times.
Back in 2005 I had written a paper for an undergrad History class at University of Waterloo about the Canadian War Art Program. I decided to go back to the research. It is inspiring to connect with artists from the past – I love how vividly artists can share their story and emotion over time as it is documented through their art.
My reading is tied into my many visits to the Canadian War Museum, the latest trip was this past December. I find the Canadian war art uncomfortable as it is both emotional & devastating but also inspiring – as it was commission work the Group of Seven did before becoming a collective and achieving success as painters. Here is a selection of books I am currently reading. And some of the paintings I saw last December.
When I visit the gallery with my father he always comments on the 1915 painting by Richard Jack “That painting is all wrong… they are not wearing helmets!” … I, however, think the artist was trying to convey the human element by not cover their faces with a common round metal shells, the scale and panic of this painting is overwhelming.
In the A.Y. Jackson book (previous image) it tells the story that when Jackson returned from the war it was difficult to make a living as no one could invest in art. So he took on more government war commissions, which included painting the boats coming back from WWI in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Future Group of Seven artists, A.Y. Jackson and Arthur Lismer, spent time together on the Canadian East coast painting together. Above is Lismer’s painting: “Convoy in Bedford Basin” 1919 that I saw at the Canadian War Museum last winter. According to the book A.Y. Jackson did a similar large scale oil painting, but eventually destroyed it as it was too big to store.
The adventures of these painters is inspiring some painting series of my own. I’d love to hear if you recommend any books on this topic as I continue my research.