Arthur Lismer

Arthur Lismer

1885 - 1969

Born in England in 1885, Lismer attended the Sheffield School of Art from 1898 to 1905. After apprenticing with a photo-engraving company in Sheffield, he traveled to Antwerp in 1906 to study at the Académie royale des beaux arts. He came to Canada in 1911, settling in Toronto, working in the commercial art firm of Rapid Grip and Batten Company, along with fellow artists J.E.H. MacDonald, Franklin Carmichael and Tom Thomson. A member of the Group of Seven, his travels into the Ontario countryside to paint began with his first trip to Georgian Bay in 1913, and his first trip to Algonquin Park with Tom Thomson in 1914. Lismer returned many times to Georgian Bay, a landscape he had a passion for. He exhibited work from this area, most notably A September Gale, in the first Group of Seven exhibition in 1920.

Lismer had a long and respected career as an educator. After living and teaching in Thornhill, Ontario, in 1916 he was appointed Principal of the Victoria School of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1919 he returned to Toronto as Vice-Principal of the Ontario College of Art, remaining there until 1927. He then went on to direct art education at the Art Gallery of Toronto until 1938. He was a visiting lecturer in the Teacher’s College at Columbia University in New York in 1938, and directed education programs for the National Gallery of Canada from 1939 to 1940. From 1942 to 1967 he was Principal of the Montreal Art Association’s School of Art, and from 1948 to 1955 he was an Assistant Professor at McGill University.

Lismer was one of the founding members of the Canadian Group of Painters in 1933, and was President of the group from 1954 to 1955. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1946.

After his time spent teaching in Halifax, Lismer returned many times to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to paint. He also traveled to the West Coast, and in 1951 made his first trip to Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He returned there for sixteen subsequent summers, painting forest undergrowth and seashore scenes.

Lismer received many honours later in life, such as the Order of Canada, the Greer Memorial Award, a Canada Council Medal and honourary degrees from Dahousie and McGill Universities.