Artwork by Alexander Young Jackson,  Gulf of St. Lawrence

A.Y. Jackson
Gulf of St. Lawrence

ink & watercolour, heightened with white
signed lower right, titled with notations in the margins; signed, titled and inscribed “Gulf of St. Lawrence (Beston); Illustration for The St. Lawrence, Rivers of America”, “A.Y. Jackson, Studio Bldg., Severn St., Toronto” and “To Farrar and Rinehart, 232 Madison Ave., New York” on the reverse
7.25 x 10.5 ins ( 18.4 x 26.7 cms ) ( sight )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$12,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $14,950.00
Sale date: May 25th 2017

Acquired directly from the artist
By descent to the current Private Collection, Toronto
Henry Beston, illustrated by A.Y. Jackson, Rivers of America: The St. Lawrence, Toronto, 1942, reproduced on the dust jacket cover
A.Y. Jackson, A Painter’s Country, Vancouver/Toronto, 1958, pages 137-38
David P. Silcox, The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, Toronto, 2003, page 192 for a canvas of this subject by A.Y. Jackson
A.Y. Jackson was employed to illustrate Henry Beston’s “The St. Lawrence”, the 1942 volume of the “Rivers of America” series, Jackson’s interest in the project related to the painter having “read a number of the volumes in the series, and Iiking some of them very much.” However, the job was met with difficulties and irritations for Jackson, who had assumed that the project would be as simple as getting a general permit to paint throughout the region and be able to travel freely to work. However, recording details of a major Canadian waterway during wartime would mean regular interruption from the Veteran’s Guard and military personnel. On one occasion while Jackson was sketching “some barns in a little village on the south shore below Quebec” he was stopped to produce his permit for working in the area. Realizing he had left the document at his lodging, the painter and official had to trudge through the snow back to the hotel to produce the permit. Years later in his autobiography, Jackson shared his frustration of such suspicions from authorities: “People have stupid ideas about what a drawing can convey. If a spy wanted factual information, all he would have to do would be memorize the details and put them down in note form later.”

Despite the difficulties, Jackson’s contribution to “The St. Lawrence” is notable, bringing the book to life with several ink drawings and watercolours adorning the pages, providing enchanting views of the region and life of its inhabitants. This painting, chosen as the cover image for the book, provides a strong representation of the painter’s focus during the period, portraying a sleigh-driven voyage coming to an end, the arrival in the cozy village witnessed by the viewer. The village sits on the shore of the mighty St. Lawrence, the icy waterway occupying as much space in the composition as the hamlet, below a rolling horizon and high clouded sky, the grey-scaled tones effectively providing the atmosphere of a Quebec winter afternoon. The scene was also the subject of St. Lawrence in Winter, a canvas by Jackson, varied mainly by greater space provided in the foreground and the horse and sleigh being farther into their arrival.

This artwork was a gift to the editor of “The St. Lawrence” during the early 1940s and has remained in the family until this offering.

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Alexander Young Jackson
(1882 - 1974) Group of Seven, OSA, RCA

Born in Montreal, Alexander Young Jackson left school at the age of twelve and began work at a Montreal printing firm. In 1906, he undertook art studies at the Art Institute in Chicago. The following year he enrolled at the Académie Julian where he studied under Jean Paul Laurens for six months, then he travelled to Italy with others where they visited galleries in Rome, Florence and Venice. They returned to France and Jackson went to the village of Episy with a fellow student named Porter with whom he had lived in Paris. Jackson found much to paint at Episy: old farms, rolling country, the canal where barges were towed by mules, and for the first time (in France) he lived with people close to the land.

He left France when his funds were low and returned to Canada in 1910 where the “clear crisp air and sharp shadows” of Sweetsburg, Quebec, became the subject of his canvas “Edge of the Maple Wood”. During this period his painting was strongly influenced by the Impressionists. Then the work of Canadian artists Cullen and Morrice led him further in the discoveries of snow and other elements of Canadian subject matter which were to become an integral part of his work throughout his life. After his return to Canada, Jackson took up residence in Montreal and made many sketching trips to the surrounding countryside. While at Emileville he received a letter from a J.E.H. MacDonald of Toronto who wanted to purchase his “Edge of the Maple Wood” on behalf of a third party, Lawren Harris. Jackson sold the picture and later met MacDonald in Toronto. In Toronto he also met, through MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley and other members of the Arts and Letters Club who were employed by the Grip Engraving Company as commercial artists. Jackson later went to Georgian Bay to sketch and was visited there by Dr. James MacCallum, a friend of Lawren Harris. MacCallum, who had a summer home at the Bay, offered Jackson a place to work in the ‘Studio Building’ which MacCallum and Lawren Harris were having built for Canadian artists in Toronto. In the meantime Jackson was invited to stay at MacCallum’s summer home. Jackson’s production was good; he did many sketches and a number of canvases, one being the “Maple in the Pine Woods” which was later to bring a storm of criticism at a Group of Seven exhibition.

On his return to Toronto, Jackson stayed at Lawren Harris’ studio in Toronto until the Studio Building was completed. There one day he was introduced to Tom Thomson who had accompanied Dr. MacCallum on a visit. Thomson was also an employee of the Grip Engraving Company. The two moved into the Studio Building in January 1914 and shared a studio. Thomson had soon inspired Jackson to visit Algonquin Park in February and March of 1914. Jackson also sketched that year with J.E.H. MacDonald and J.W. Beatty. In 1915, Jackson enlisted as a private in the 60th Battalion and after being wounded, returned later to the front as Lieutenant with Canadian War Records. As a war artist he created one of the finest collections of war paintings our nation possesses.

In 1919 he went to Algoma with J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren Harris and Franz Johnston, making use of a railway box car as a studio which Harris had arranged. During that year, Jackson became a full member of the Royal Canadian Academy. On May 7th, 1920, the first exhibition of the Group of Seven opened at the Art Gallery of Toronto. The Group continued to exhibit until 1931. Each exhibition of the Group was met with great protest. In July of 1927 Jackson and Dr. Frederick Banting went north on the steamer ‘Beothic’ which had been chartered by the government to deliver supplies to the RCMP posts and to carry relief constables to the posts. They sketched at Pond Inlet, Devon Island, Ellesmere Island and other arctic locations. Jackson’s arctic sketches were exhibited at the Art Gallery of Toronto.

Jackson's great sense of adventure carried him from the east coast across Canada to the Rocky Mountains of the west. He made regular sketching trips to Quebec every spring and travelled to the far regions of Canada during the summer, including the Canadian Arctic. In the fall he would return to the Studio Building in Toronto (where he lived until 1955), spending the winters painting canvases. He continued this active lifestyle until he was in his eighties.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979