Alexander Young (“A.Y.”) Jackson

A leading member of the Group of Seven, A.Y. Jackson was born in Montreal and studied Impressionist art in Paris before moving to Toronto in 1913 where he shared a studio with Tom Thomson. Thomson introduced Jackson to the wilderness of northern Ontario and, for much of the rest of his life, Jackson spent long stretches of time in the bush, working on small oil sketches that he turned into large canvas works back in his Toronto studio. During the First World War, he joined the Canadian military as an infantryman and from 1917 to 1919 he served as an Official War Artist. In 1920 he started exhibiting as part of the new the Group of Seven he helped to found and from the beginning his style and focus on the Canadian landscape were constant and strong. He visited the Arctic twice and often traveled through Quebec seeking landscape subjects. During his lifetime and ever since, Jackson has been widely lauded for his significant contribution to the development of art in Canada. A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the Ontario Society of Artists, he was buried in the grounds of the McMichael Collection of Canadian Art in Kleinburg, Ontario.

A.Y. Jackson, an employee of Sampson-Matthews, instigated the wartime silkscreen art program and was its biggest contributor, providing 12 works throughout the run of the program. In many of these works, the presence of man is evident but shown in small scale compared to the dominance of nature. “Jack Pine” (1950) presents a vast view of the pristine northern Canadian wilderness; in the distance a solitary canoe travels with the current while in the foreground a dense thicket of flora looms high above the water. A cold but bright winter scene of a Quebec homestead is offered in “Laurentian Farm” (1947-1953) as a sled is pulled by a draught horse through deep snow. A tiny, isolated village lines the edge of the water in “Junction of the Peace and Smoky Rivers” (1953-1957), the only evidence of civilization in a vast landscape of otherwise barren rolling hills. The presence of man is more forceful along a barren riverbank as the land gives was to human industry in “Gold Mine” (1953-1957). Many of Jackson’s works, however, deny any evidence of civilisation and present the Canadian wilderness in its pure, untouched form. In “West Bay Fault, Yellowknife” (1947-1953) a scene from Canada’s far north is warmed by Jackson’s addition of Vincent van Gogh-esque swirls of reds and oranges as the sun glimpses through an overcast sky. Jackson uses touches of red to warm otherwise cold scenes again in “Maple and Birch” (1947-1953), where a stand of white birch trees loses its leaves on a clear fall day, and in “Dease Bay, Great Bear Lake” (1947-1953) where dabs of blood red contribute to the moody dusk in the Northwest Territories of Canada’s Arctic.