Artwork by Alexander Young Jackson,  St. Irenée, Quebec

A.Y. Jackson
St. Irenée, Quebec

oil on panel
signed lower left; signed and titled on the reverse
8.5 x 10.5 ins ( 21.6 x 26.7 cms )

Auction Estimate: $60,000.00$40,000.00 - $60,000.00

Price Realized $94,400.00
Sale date: November 20th 2018

Private Collection, Toronto
Masters Gallery, Calgary
Private Collection, Alberta
A.K. Prakash, Canadian Art: Selected Masters from Private Collections, Ottawa, 2003, page 153, reproduced in colour
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
Returning to the villages of Quebec to paint throughout his life, A.Y. Jackson was continually drawn to “Christmas card country”, as we he would describe the region to fellow Group of Seven member, J.E.H. MacDonald. The painter - sometimes journeying alone, other times with fellow painters including Albert Robinson, Arthur Lismer and Frederick Banting - would stay in an array of accommodations during his travels through the towns of rural Quebec. Jackson would often board with families during stays in smaller communities, providing a deep examination of not only the land but also the daily life and culture of the residents. Limited by their isolation, many of those in the communities were enchanted by Jackson’s stories of his extensive travels and experiences, the painter playing equal hand in the storytelling tradition with his hosts. Charles C. 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.

The rural community of Saint-Irénee is situated along the St. Lawrence River in the Charlevoix region. A small and picturesque village, Saint-Irénée afforded Jackson both the rugged barren Canadian landscape and small towns the artist sought to explore in his artistic practice. In this charming oil painting, Jackson depicts the the quintessentially ‘Christmas card country’ of rural Quebec, with a horse pulling a sleigh through a snow-covered village. The composition demonstrates Jackson’s strong sense of both colour and composition through its fluid, rhythmic lines of the snowy terrain, roofs and steep hill, and in its rich hues of aqua in the sky and the colourful patterns created in the snow by sunlight and shadow. The enchanting canvas holds a whimsical charm while honouring the distinctive personality of the town and its inhabitants.

Recalling his many adventures in rural Quebec in his autobiography, A.Y. Jackson notes that, at the time, he had missed “only one season” in thirty years of painting in the region, caused by a teaching post at the Ontario College of Art.

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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