Groupe des Sept - Group of Seven
Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, Alexander Young J ackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, James Edward Hervey Macdonald, Frederick Horsman Varley
Originally, six of the seven members of the group worked for an advertising company, the Grip Engraving Co of Toronto.
Engaged as a graphic designer in 1895, J.E.H. Macdonald had just completed his brilliant studies at the Central Ontario School of Art and Design. After a few years he became head of the conception department of the Grip Engraving Co and was considered the founding member of the group.
In 1908, a sensitive young man, Tom Thomson, worked under the direction of J.E.H. MacDonald. He encourages his friend's talent and introduces him to one of his acquaintances, Lawren Harris. This painter is lucky not to need to work, his family being well-off.
In the meantime, F.H. Varley had just immigrated to Canada from England and was hired by Grip Engraving Co through his friend A. Lismer, a graphic designer at the same company, who had followed the same route before him. Franz Johnston will also join this band of artists.
In 1913, a Montreal artist, A. Y. Jackson, moved to Toronto and shared a workshop with Tom Thomson.
In 1914, it was the turn of Carmichael, another graphic designer of the Grip, to share a workshop with Thompson. With his friends A. Y. Jackson, Lismer and Varley, they will camp at Algonquin Park, Canoe Lake. These outings in nature to paint are frequent and new ideas on the representation of the landscape begin to emerge.
In 1917, Tom Thomson died mysteriously, drowned in Lake Algonquin. Was it an accident, a murder or a suicide? The circumstances of the death will never be evaded. He was never formally part of the Group of Seven, which was created only in 1920. He nevertheless remained present in the minds of his comrades, encouraging them to paint in remote areas of Canada.
In September 1919, with Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald and Franz Johnston, A. Y. Jackson travels to Algoma. This expedition and other subsequent expeditions provided them with the material of the first exhibition.
The first exhibition of the Group of Seven took place in 1920 at the Art Gallery of Toronto. The Group was dissatisfied with what was Canadian art at the time: a pastiche of European art. Wishing to go against the cultural establishment they considered retrograde, they proclaim a new genre.
Following their first exhibitions, critics are mixed. Franz Johnston officially breaks with the Group of Seven in 1922. After the departure of Johnston, A. J. Casson replaced him in the Group in 1926.
The Group of Seven will be supported by the Director of the National Gallery of Canada, Eric Brown. After a prestigious exhibition in England where critics were enthusiastic, their reputation is now established.
Realizing that they can not really claim to be a national school of painters since they all live in Toronto, members invite artists from other provinces to join them. In 1930, Montreal artist Edwin Holgate joined the Group, followed in 1932 by L. L. Fitzgerald of Winnipeg.
Carmichael left the 1932 group to teach at the Ontario College of Art.
Around 1931, the influence of the Group was widespread and the public was now more open. They think it unnecessary to continue as a group of painters, no longer having to stand up against criticism. At an exhibition, they officially announced the dissolution of the current group and the creation of a new one: The Canadian Group of Painters, which held its first exhibition in 1933. These members pursued two objectives: to develop mutual assistance between Canadian painters and encouraging Canadian artistic expression.