Fall 2016 - 4th Session Live auction
Lot # 259
Alexander Young (A.Y.) Jackson
ALC CGP G7 OSA RCA RSA 1882 - 1974 Canadian
oil on canvas 1942
signed and on verso inscribed "East York Collegiate, Coxwell Avenue" on a label and stamped OP2064001
38 1/2 x 48 in 97.8 x 121.9cm
Kenneth G. Heffel Fine Art Inc., Vancouver
Private Collection, Alberta
Peter and Joanne Brown Collection, Vancouver
Radford Crawley, director, Canadian Landscape, National Film Board of Canada, 1941, the oil sketch and the initial stages of this canvas shown in the film
Naomi Jackson Groves, A.Y.'s Canada, 1968, page 188
In 1942, the year this magnificent canvas was painted, Canada was at war for the second time in a generation. As a veteran, Canadian War Memorials Fund artist and fiercely patriotic 60-year-old Canadian, A.Y. Jackson knew keenly what Canadian soldiers were fighting for. Only six years prior, he had attended a reunion of veterans in Europe while on holiday with his niece Naomi Jackson Groves, and the memories of what he had seen in England, France and Belgium would have been revived. Jackson participated in a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio program with National Film Board and National Gallery of Canada representatives in September of 1942, discussing how Canadian artists could help in the war effort. He was quoted the following month as having stated in that interview, “It is not too late yet, if it could be got into the heads of people in government that art is an active force in society and therefore has a definite job to do in a nation at war.” It was, in part, his suggestion to send reproductions of Canadian art overseas, an idea that led to the Sampson-Matthews silkscreen project, which created high-quality reproductions of Canadian art to be hung on the walls of Canadian Armed Forces buildings. As a result, some 17,400 prints were sent overseas and to locations in Canada, to remind Canadians of the beauty of their homeland and provide respite from what Jackson knew they might face.
In his studio, Jackson’s patriotism poured out in his work. With vigour and pride, Autumn, Algoma speaks to his love of Canada in the riot of colour, the assured way he applied his paint, and in the vast, wild and appealing beauty of the scenery. The perspective in the work is commanding. We are looking out from a location on a high hillside over the tranquil, glassy lake below us and out onto a forest showing the first hints—as well as full blazes—of autumn’s colour. Orange and gold, yellow and green foliage rolls gently in a kaleidoscope of grey-blue hills that are crusted with lichens of every hue, set under a sky sliced by equally colourful clouds. It is a masterwork showing Jackson at his finest. Certainly this was a work that would remind us of things we had grown to cherish as Canadians, wherein the verdant, expansive landscape itself can be seen as a symbol of freedom and strength.
The work of the Group of Seven was an important contributing factor in our development of a national artistic identity, and Jackson, being very vocal in this regard, was especially vociferous during times of war. Not only was he able to work in Royal Canadian Air Force bases, along the rapidly constructed Alaska Highway, and in various military bases in widespread locations, but he was also able to imbue his landscapes, which at first glance might not seem to have direct connections to the conflict, with a stirring sense of Canadian spirit. Works such as this, works that celebrate the unique landscape of Canada, also evoke ideas of strength and vitality and thus were, as Jackson stated, an active societal force in the war effort.
Autumn, Algoma is a major canvas from a particularly interesting point in Jackson’s life, when his experience as a war veteran and role as a leader in Canada’s artistic community placed him at the forefront of Canada’s art conversations. In the early 1940s, he worked with the National Film Board of Canada on a short documentary about the life of Tom Thomson, West Wind, as well as on a longer film entitled Canadian Landscape, which premiered at the Art Gallery of Toronto, now the Art Gallery of Ontario. He began to contribute regularly to the Toronto News, the publication that had first quoted his statements about art and the war effort. His honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Queen’s University would be the first of four, recognizing the depth of his contribution to the Canadian art community, and to our sense of nationalism, patriotism and pride.
Estimate: $250,000 ~ $350,000 CAD
Sold For: $283,200.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)