A.Y Jackson by Edmond Dyonnet
Alexander Young Jackson was born in Montreal in 1882. He was a painter and an illustrator.
Lawren Harris invited Jackson to come to Toronto to collaborate with an informal group of artists who were also interested in distinctly Canadian subjects. Jackson had been working in his hometown, Montreal, as a commercial artist and had studied in Paris. His meeting in 1913 with Tom Thomson and future Group of Seven artists led to sketching trips that excited Jackson about the rugged beauty of the Canadian wilderness.
In the autumn of 1914, just before the artists were dispersed by the war, Jackson visited Algonquin Park with Thomson and Arthur Lismer. There with wide, sweeping brush strokes and vivid colours, Jackson created an intimate view of rapidly flowing stream seen through a screen of crimson leaves.
Jackson enlisted in the army in 1915. He returned to Toronto in 1919 and joined Harris and Frank Johnston on a painting trip to Algoma, re-establishing the prewar artistic camaraderie. In early 1920, despite inhospitable weather, Jackson painted at Georgian Bay. When he arrived back in Toronto in the spring, he learned of the formation of the Group of Seven and of his membership in it. Although members of the Group shared a common purpose (as Jackson noted in his autobiography, A painter’s country, “to express, in paint, the spirit of our country”), their interests and responsibilities diversified as each artist sought out particular areas of the country to paint.
Although he would later sketch in the Rockies and the Arctic, Jackson maintained an attachment to his native province, and in the spring of 1921, when the deep snows still blanketed the fields, he made the first of many trips to the Quebec countryside. He painted undulating snow-covered farmlands on the north shore of the St-Lawrence river.
He died in Kleinsburg, Ontario in 1974.
“Seldom is there found a subject all composed and waiting to be painted,” wrote Jackson. “Out of the confusions of motifs, the vital one had to be determined…One must know the north country intimately to appreciate the great variety of its forms”.
In Paris, his exposure to Impressionism fostered techniques for capturing the fleeting effects of light that he would later apply to the Canadian landscape.
When Jackson’s work was exhibited in Toronto in 1911, it so impressed Lawren Harris that he purchased the painting.
In 1917, received a commission as a war artist from the Canadian War Memorials Fund.
Source: Anne Newlands, Canadian art from its beginnings to 2000, Firefly, 2000 ; Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian art, volume two/G-K, Ottawa, 1994