Biography: A.Y. Jackson
Collection of the Library and Archives, National Gallery of Canada
"The obedient in art are always the forgotten . . . The country is glorious but its beauties are unknown, and but waiting for a real live artist to splash them onto canvas . . . Chop your own path. Get off the car track."
(A.Y. Jackson, Montreal, letter to Florence Clement, Berlin, Ontario, 5 March 1913).
A.Y. (Alexander Young) Jackson, a founding and leading member of the Group of Seven, was recognized during his lifetime for his contribution to the development of art in Canada. He travelled widely and painted full-time, primarily landscapes.
A native of Montreal, Jackson studied with William Brymner at the Art Association of Montreal, at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1906, and with Jean-Paul Laurens at the Académie Julien, Paris, in 1907. He painted in Europe frequently between 1906 and 1912. It was his painting The Edge of the Maple Wood (1910) that brought him to the attention of J.E.H. MacDonald and, when it was bought by Lawren Harris, Jackson visited Toronto and met other members of the future Group of Seven. Dr. James MacCallum, co-financier with Harris of Canada's first purpose-built studio building, sponsored him for a year in 1914. Jackson lived and worked at the Studio Building in Toronto until 1955. He travelled in Canada throughout his career, sketching outdoors and painting in his Toronto studio.
Jackson's father, an unsuccessful businessman, abandoned his family in 1891, and Jackson worked from the age of twelve at a Montreal lithography company. Having moved to Toronto, in 1914 he shared a studio with Tom Thomson and painted in Algonquin Park, producing The Red Maple that same year. During the First World War he joined the infantry, serving as a war artist in 1917-19. He exhibited with the Group of Seven from 1920 and played a key role in bringing the artists of Montreal and Toronto together. Jackson continued to play an influential role in Canadian art, and from 1943 to 1949 he taught at the Banff School of Fine Arts. Jackson resided in Manotick, near Ottawa, from 1955, but incapacitated in 1968 by a stroke, he moved to Kleinburg, Ontario, and lived there at the McMichael Collection from 1969.