Alexander Young (A.Y.) Jackson
ALC CGP G7 OSA RCA RSA
1882 - 1974
oil on canvas, 1930
signed and on verso signed, titled and inscribed "Bldg., Severn St." and "$250" on the partial 1932 exhibition label, inscribed "J.S. McLean" and "McLean Bayviews" and numbered with the Art Gallery of Ontario accession #L69.20
21 x 26 in 53.3 x 66 cm
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
Sold for: $193,250
J.S. McLean, Toronto
Gift from the J.S. McLean Collection to the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1969
Donated by the Ontario Heritage Foundation to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1988, AGO accession #L69.20
Catalogue of the Sixtieth Annual Exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists, Art Gallery of Toronto, 1932, reproduced page 10
Eric Brown, foreword, Retrospective Exhibition of Painting by Members of the Group of Seven, 1919 -1933, National Gallery of Canada, 1936, reproduced page 14
Albert H. Robson, A.Y. Jackson, 1938, page 22, reproduced page 23, plate VI
The J.S. McLean Collection of Canadian Painting, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1968, reproduced, unpaginated
Anna Hudson, A Collector’s Vision: J.S. McLean and Modern Painting in Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1999, reproduced page 47 and listed page 72
Art Gallery of Toronto, Ontario Society of Artists: Sixtieth Annual Exhibition, March 1932, catalogue #89
J. Merritt Malloney’s Gallery, Toronto, Paintings by A.Y. Jackson, February – March 10, 1934, catalogue #21
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 #113
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, The J.S. McLean Collection of Canadian Painting, September 19 - October 20, 1968, traveling in 1968 - 1969 to the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and Museum, Charlottetown; Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton; London Public Library and Art Museum; Winnipeg Art Gallery; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon; Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina; Edmonton Art Gallery; and the Vancouver Art Gallery, catalogue #31
A.Y. Jackson Secondary School, Willowdale, Temple Har Zion Art Show, June 3 - 4, 1977
J.S. (James Stanley) McLean (1876 - 1954) was one of the great collectors of Canadian art in the middle of the twentieth century. Along with Charles S. Band, Vincent Massey and H.S. Southam, McLean and his collecting interests and involvement with public institutions helped shape the canon of modern Canadian painting before the ascent of abstraction. Like all great collectors, McLean was astute and informed. He understood he could not acquire a good canvas by an artist like Tom Thomson and, instead, acquired the sketch for a great, arguably the greatest, Thomson canvas, The West Wind (collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, #L69.49). McLean also understood a collection needs focus. He achieved this by acquiring the works of select artists in depth, including Paraskeva Clark, David Milne, Carl Schaefer and, most of all, A.Y. Jackson.
The dramatic view of the solitary tree against the rugged Canadian landscape is central to the iconography of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. Jackson’s Night, Georgian Bay from 1913 (collection of the National Gallery of Canada, #1697) was among the earliest examples, and with Red Cedar, he extended the motif with the maturity and subtlety of intimate size and grand scale befitting his experience gleaned by the early 1930s.
It was Arthur Lismer’s witty and true observation that a map of Canada with spots marking every place Jackson painted would suggest the country had a rash. Jackson also responded to some places more profoundly than to others. David Silcox described Algonquin Park as the Group of Seven’s heartland, with Georgian Bay as their second home. The relationship with Georgian Bay was deeper, and this was especially true of Jackson. The artists who formed the Group stopped painting in Algonquin Park after Thomson’s death and before its official formation, but some continued to paint at Georgian Bay well after its dissolution. Extending that relationship gave the artists greater insights into the place, and gave us richer contexts for the understanding of their achievement and development.
After he had painted in many locations across Canada, and almost two decades after his first visit, Jackson viewed and treated Georgian Bay anew in Red Cedar. Jackson’s thoughtfully bold painting conveys the particularities he absorbed after years of painting there. Reflecting on the area in the 1960s, Jackson observed that winds from each cardinal point created distinct effects and painting opportunities. The east wind was stifling, while the west wind created sparkles and movement. The north wind defined shapes and elevated far islands above the horizon. Almost as if he were describing Red Cedar, he wrote that the south wind led blue skies to shift to grey and brown, and created new textures as water rushed over the shoals.
Jackson set to work on Red Cedar in his Toronto studio by laying in the scene with burnt sienna to define the composition. The tone underpins the textures of windswept water defiantly rendered in warm blues, mauves and greys with warm white highlights. Moreover, the horizontal passages of light playing off the water are energized by white hatching, with blues and greens to enhance texture. A diagonal shaft of light sitting on the horizon in the top left captures an atmospheric phenomenon, fully activating and balancing the cedar’s dark, dense foliage in the top right. Jackson’s understated genius was his ability to synthesize the subject with pictorial abstraction to create a painting replete with visual interest. The effect of one of Jackson’s major influences, Vincent van Gogh, echoes in Jackson’s hallmark sinuous contours defining the cedar’s branches, the turbulent clouds, and the young cedars beyond the craggy old red cedar. The latter evoke their arboreal cousins in van Gogh’s numerous paintings of cypresses, especially his Wheatfield with Cypresses, a version of which was acquired by the National Gallery (London, #N03967) the year before the gallery acquired Jackson’s Entrance to Halifax Harbour from 1919.
In addition to being shown at the Ontario Society of Artists and Group of Seven exhibitions soon after its completion, Red Cedar was loaned in the middle 1970s to the Ontario Legislature, where it hung in the offices of the Attorney General and the Lieutenant-Governor’s suite, and it was shown nationally and internationally in exhibitions celebrating McLean’s collection.
We thank Gregory Humeniuk, art historian, writer and curator, for contributing the above essay.
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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