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LOT 113

Alexander Young (A.Y.) Jackson
1882 - 1974

Laurentian Hills
oil on canvas
signed and on verso signed and titled and dated 1932 - 1933 and numbered with the accession #2002/9397 on the Art Gallery of Ontario Permanent Collection label
25 x 32 in 63.5 x 81.3 cm

Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000

Sold for: $451,250

Preview at:

John George Althouse, Toronto
Gift in memory of John George Althouse from Isobel Althouse Wilkinson and John Provost Wilkinson, Toronto, to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2002, AGO accession #2002/9397

Eric Brown, Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by Members of the Group of Seven, 1919 - 1933, National Gallery of Canada, 1936, listed page 14

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by Members of the Group of Seven, 1919 - 1933, February 20 – April 15, 1936, traveling in 1936 to the Art Association of Montreal and the Art Gallery of Toronto, catalogue #101

Views of rural Quebec, particularly Charlevoix County, were a mainstay of A.Y. Jackson’s contributions to the Ontario Society of Artists, the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and Group of Seven exhibitions from the early 1920s through the mid-1940s. In 1933, in the middle of this run, Jackson reached a summit of his creative response to Charlevoix. Located about 60 kilometres downriver from Quebec City on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, Charlevoix was more than a source of topographical interest. Its rich culture, developed over centuries by French settlers, had interested academics and artists since the 1910s. This interest crystallized in 1936 with the publication of Jackson’s ethnologist friend Marius Barbeau’s popular book The Kingdom of Saguenay, which wove the region’s historical legends into contemporary consciousness.
In 1933, the year Jackson painted Laurentian Hills, the Group of Seven dissolved, and its successor, the Canadian Group of Painters (CGP), emerged. Painted too late to appear in any of the Group’s exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario), Laurentian Hills nevertheless conveys the Group’s ethic of making art that added to the culture, and the nascent CGP’s ambition to find beauty and uniqueness in all things. Three years later, the Group was the subject of a retrospective mounted by the National Gallery of Canada with 199 works, which included 26 works by Jackson, amongst which was the present lot, catalogue #101 in the show, on loan from J.G. Althouse of Toronto.
Laurentian Hills and two other Charlevoix canvases from this year and of the same dimensions – the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Winter, Charlevoix County (1933, AGO #2157) and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection’s Road to Baie St. Paul (1933, MCAC #1968.20) – share the summit. Charlevoix, which Jackson returned to year after year in late winter, was for him as important as Algonquin Park was for Tom Thomson. Jackson could intuit painting conditions and position himself to take greatest advantage of the scene when setting out to sketch. More importantly, his deep experience as a painter, and years of seeing the light on location, informed the canvases he painted in the Studio Building at 25 Severn Street in Toronto. Each of these paintings has an illuminating, warm pale salmon ground that radiates the effect of late winter sunlight. Jackson’s keen use of the warm ground, with variations of ultramarine enhanced with impastoed flake white, is a dynamic complement that underpins each of the paintings. Despite the powerful evocation of light raking across snow in the windswept fields, one must remember that the painting was created in his studio.
Laurentian Hills’ first owner, John George Althouse, was a dedicated educator who was principal of the Ontario College of Education; dean of education, University of Toronto, from 1934 to 1944; then chief director of education for Ontario from 1944 until his sudden death in 1956 at age 67, at his summer home in Temagami, Ontario. He was awarded honorary Doctor of Law degrees for his service to education and posthumously had a middle school named after him in Toronto. His lifelong commitment was summarized in his commencement address to high school students in 1952. He hoped they would master two fundamental lessons: first, that their importance depended upon their usefulness; second, that the best satisfactions in life come from dedication to something larger, more noble and more important than oneself. His advice still applies today, and suggests the value of Laurentian Hills to its distinguished previous owner.
The painting’s original frame is a portal for seeing how Jackson presented his work more than 80 years ago and how Althouse would have lived with it in the 1930s. The modest frame’s reverse-ogee moulding and metallic finish over textured gesso were almost certainly chosen for economic reasons. Reflecting then-current framing aesthetics, this moulding appears on works by members of the Group and their peers with different finishes. The simple profile and absence of embellishment liberate our eyes to move around the work as if looking at an abstract painting. In The Kingdom of Saguenay, Barbeau’s character Père Raquette, modeled after Jackson, declares the artist is neither a documentarian nor an anecdotalist. The artist chooses what is essential to the composition in order to achieve unity, and this process of abstraction is distilled in the serene refinement of Laurentian Hills.
We thank Gregory Humeniuk, art historian, writer and curator, for contributing the above essay.

Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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