Artwork by Alexander Young Jackson,  Ruisseau Jureux

A.Y. Jackson
Ruisseau Jureux

oil on canvas
signed lower left; signed, titled and dated 1931 on the stretcher
21 x 26 ins ( 53.3 x 66 cms )

Auction Estimate: $175,000.00$125,000.00 - $175,000.00

Price Realized $88,500.00
Sale date: May 29th 2018

Masters Gallery, Calgary
Private Collection
Exhibition of Seascapes and Water-Fronts by Contemporary Artists and an Exhibition of the Group of Seven, The Art Gallery of Toronto, December 4 – 24, 1931, no. 89
Charles C. Hill, Canadian Painting in the Thirties, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1975, pages 11, 21 and 27
David P. Silcox, The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, Toronto, 2003, pages 181-83
The small village of Ruisseau Jureux is situated within the county of St. Irénée in the picturesque Charlevoix region of Quebec. A.Y. Jackson depicts this scenic nature of this town during the season of transition. In a monochromatic palette of earth tones, the artist paints the calm body of water surrounded by a forest and rocky shoreline of sparse, bare branches. Charles C. Hill remarks on Jackson’s preference to portray these time periods in the Canadian landscape: “It was the changing seasons that attracted A.Y., not the bright greens of summer, nor the blank whiteness of winter, but the flow of winter to spring or the blaring up of summer into autumn.”

Jackson completed “Ruisseau Jureux” in 1931, when the Group of Seven dominated as Canada’s national art movement, and the painter served as the association’s leading spokesman. He believed that an art determined by geography and created by artists ‘with their feet in the soil’ would serve as a true expression of Canada, and that a resurgence of Canadian art would emerge out of the continued interpretation of its landscape.

A.Y. Jackson and Edwin Holgate were the only two Group members native to Quebec, and both men frequently depicted the Quebec landscape, more than any other members. Hill writes that Jackson typified their popular image: “robust, adventurous, a man of the soil, and a democrat”, returning each time with his quota of sketches to be painted up into canvases.

For many years Jackson embarked on annual trips to the Îles aux Coudres, the Ile d’Orléans, the small villages along the north shore of the St. Lawrence in the Charlevoix region (such as Ruisseau Jureux), or the south shore east of Lévis and toward the Gaspé. Jackson was known throughout these areas as “Père Raquette”, as he preferred to travel by snowshoes during the winter. His travel companions included Dr. Frederick Banting and Arthur Lismer on occasion. Jackson would return from these trips each time with a large number of sketches to be completed on canvas in his studio. David Silcox writes that there are “many charming and vigorous works in Jackson’s documentation of this region.”

The year 1931 marked the beginning of a turning point for the Group of Seven, as they were pressured from younger artists to be more inclusive and venture beyond their mission and its restrictions. Members disagreed about how the Group should expand. A.Y. Jackson acknowledged these difficulties and made an announcement to the Group at Lawren Harris’ house following a 1931 exhibition: “The interest in a freer form of art expression in Canada has become so general that we believe the time has arrived when the Group of Seven should expand, and the original members become the members of a larger group of artists, with no officials or constitution, but held together by common intention of doing original and sincere work.” The following year, Jackson and the Group of Seven disbanded to form the new, larger association known as the Canadian Group of Painters.

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Alexander Young Jackson
(1882 - 1974) Group of Seven, Canadian Group of Painters, 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