Alexander Young Jackson
(1882 – 1974)
Alexander Young Jackson is one of the most prolific and certainly one of the most important Canadian artists of the first half of the twentieth-century. He was born in Montreal in 1882, later moving to Toronto to paint as a member of the famous Group of Seven. As part of this group, Jackson contributed to the important departure from the British and French style and developed a unique visual language and subject matter that was decidedly “Canadian.” Breaking from the styles and even the values of their predecessors, A.Y. Jackson and his peers in the Group of Seven are considered to be pivotal in Canadian art history and truly at the crux of twentieth century Canadian nationalism.
Like many other prominent early twentieth-century Canadian painters, A.Y. Jackson was taught by William Brymner of the Canadian Art Club. In the years leading up to and after the First World War, many Montreal artists found it difficult to accept the conservative Montreal art community after traveling to Europe and being exposed to its emerging Modernism. Through contact with Brymner, Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, Maurice Cullen, and Clarence Gagnon, who were all convinced of the stagnant moment in the Montreal art community, Jackson became weary of his prospects of artistic success in Montreal.
In 1913, Jackson decided to leave Montreal for Georgian Bay, encouraged by Lawren Harris who had invited him to Toronto. Here, Jackson painted many important images of the Canadian wild, making use of the voluminous space, symmetry and pure touches of colour that became central to the development of the new movement. Jackson spent much time with Tom Thompson, mentoring each other and helping each other to develop their poetic interpretations of the Canadian landscape.
A.Y. Jackson and the Canadian Group of Seven painters have been celebrated for almost a century for revealing the mystic north to the Canadian public. The group took their inspiration from a show in Buffalo exhibiting contemporary Scandinavian art; the similitude between the Scandinavian and Canadian landscapes, along with the expression of the landscapes’ isolation and vastness compelled the Canadian painters to look at their own country for a more contemporary style of painting.