Key Dates: 1911-1931
The Group of Seven Artists began in the early 1900s when several Canadian Artists began noticing a similarity in style. Canadian Painters Tom Thomson, J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, Frank Johnston and Franklin Carmichael were often believed to have socialised together through common interests and mutual employment. One particular venue, the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto, served as a common meeting place for the artists.
A. Y. Jackson later joined them around 1913. About the same time, Dr. James MacCallum and another artist by the name of Lawren S. Harris came into the picture and money was raised to build the historic Studio Building for Canadian Art in Toronto. During the spring of 1917, tragedy struck the group as Tom Thomson drowned in Algonquin Park’s Canoe Lake. This tragedy shocked the Group, and questions were raised about the suspicious circumstances surrounding the drowning. The first World War had also interrupted the group’s focus on art.
In 1920, the group put on their first exhibit and formerly called themselves the Group of Seven. The artists included were J.E.H. MacDonald, Franklin Carmichael, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, Lawren S. Harris, Frederick Varley and A.Y. Jackson.
During the 1920s, the group established itself as uniquely Canadian in style. As their popularity grew, the group began travelling across Canada, a task not taken to lightly in those early days. They are historically recognized as the first group of European descent to capture the feel of the Arctic on canvas.
The Group’s final joint exhibition was in December 1931. In 1932, MacDonald died and the group disbanded. In their wake rose a new group called the Canadian Group of Artists, of which Group of Seven members included painters Harris, Casson, Lismer, Jackson, and Carmichael. The C. G. P. held their first formal exhibit in November 1933.
The Canadian Group of Painters are historically recognized as having a significant impact on the Canadian Art movement and forever changed the style and spirit of Canadian Art, as did the Group of Seven.