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Painting Canada: The Group of 7

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Canada has had a long struggle with identity, especially within its artwork. In the 1920s a group known as the Group of 7 formed in efforts to create a Canadian aesthetic. The group's inspiration was Tom Thomson who's painting "The Jack Pine" was an important work that at first defined the iconography of the group.
However, Thomson died in 1917, before the Group of 7 was established, during a fishing trip within his canoe at Canoe Lake. It was thought to be a true Canadian death within the wilderness and he became a martyr of sorts for the others within the group.
The group strove to differentiate themselves from European schools of painting and art in order to truly create a Canadian way of landscape. Their first exhibition in Paris was not well received.
The members were Lawren Harris - who painted this work in the image, A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnson, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H MacDonald, Frederick Varley and A.J. Casson. Often thought to be part of the Group of 7 is Emily Carr who painted west coast landscapes however she was only friends with Harris and decided to focus on painting the disappearing Indigenous cultures and their lifestyles.

This particular work by Harris was painted later in his career when he became more invested in Theosophy and Eastern philosophy. He often painted the great white north as white was the colour of purity and the ideal within Theosophy. It was thought that the north held a cosmic power to help purify the soul.

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by Murissa Shalapata
AFAR Local Expert
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