2021 Challenge: AY Jackson Hills Killarney (Nellie Lake)
2021 Challenge: A. Y. Jackson "Hills Killarney (Nellie Lake)"
This year's challenge will be a dramatic and colourful landscape by AY Jackson of the Group of Seven, "Hills Killarney (Nellie Lake)." Alexander Young Jackson (1882-1974) was famous for his Neo-Impressionist landscapes, that were often full of colour and simplified forms.
Born in Montreal, Jackson got interested in art working as an office boy in a printer's shop. In 1905, he worked his way across to Europe on a cattle boat, then back to the US, where he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He travelled back to France to study Impressionism, then became friendly with artists in Ontario, who gathered at the Studio Building in Toronto (now a National Historic Site) or in the rustic cabin and studio of Tom Thomson behind it, to talk about art, and paint. They were all drawn to landscape, and wanted to create a bold fresh style of painting. For a while, Jackson and Tom Thomson shared a studio and went on canoeing trips together. During World War I, Jackson served as a war artist, then was injured. Tom Thomson drowned in 1917, and when Jackson came home, he adopted Thomson's painting easel, and used it for the rest of his time at the Studio Building.
In 1919 the Studio Building artists put their works in a group show, calling themselves the Group of Seven. They were considered reckless, going out into the rugged wilderness of Northern Ontario, long considered too wild to paint, doing tiny paintings on hardboard they brought home and turned into larger more complete works in their studios. They had to find new ways of painting to depict a landscape so seemingly untouched by human history and habitation, when so much of art had been developed in Europe. Even though Thomson died before the Group of Seven was formed, he was seen by the others as a crucial part of what they became.
In the 1940s, Jackson taught at the Banff School of Fine Art, and in 1955, he decided to give up his space in the Studio Building. Lawren Harris wrote to him, "Your moving from the Studio Building marks the end of an era, the one era of creative art that has the greatest significance for Canada... You were the real force and inspiration that led all of us into a modern conception that suited this country, and the last to leave the home base of operations."
Later in life, following a stroke in 1965, Jackson lived on the grounds of what became the McMichael Canadian Collection. He died in 1974 and is buried on the grounds of the McMichael Collection in Kleinberg, Ontario, along with 5 others of the Group of Seven and their spouses.