Artwork by Alexander Young Jackson,  Sun and Fog, Great Bear Lake

A.Y. Jackson
Sun and Fog, Great Bear Lake

oil on board
signed lower right; titled, dated 1938 and inscribed “J.S. McLean” on the reverse
10.5 x 13.5 ins ( 26.7 x 34.3 cms )

Sold for $20,060.00
Sale date: May 28th 2019

Provenance:
Gordon A. Davies, Toronto
By descent to the present Private Collection, Ontario
Literature:
A.Y. Jackson, A Painter’s Country, Vancouver/Toronto, 1958, pages 122-23
A.Y. Jackson was invited by mining prospector and promoter Gilbert La Bine to his Eldorado Gold Mine and to Great Bear Lake, where he had discovered a valuable pitchblende (radium) deposit in 1930. In this oil painting Jackson depicts a mining village he visited during this trip in 1938. The artist reminisces about the exciting journey he took to get to the Northwest Territories in his autobiography, writing:

“In 1938 [La Bine] asked me if I would like to visit his Eldorado Mine. Ten years earlier I had been as far as Yellowknife and I always had a yearning to see what kind of country lay beyond. I accepted his invitation to travel on the Company’s plane from Edmonton to the mine. [...] We stopped for the night at Fort Smith, then followed the Slave River to Great Slave Lake. From Great Slave Lake to Great Bear Lake the land seemed to be half water; there were lakes of every shape and size as there is not very much rain in that country. [...] We arrived at the radium mine, a little centre of industry in a great empty wilderness. I spent six weeks at Eldorado, from August into October. The weather was lovely. I wandered over the rocky hills, which were easy to traverse. There were patches of spruce and small birch, and muskeg lakes, but mostly open rock.”

A commercial artist based in Toronto during the early part of the 20th century, Gordon Albert Davies (1890-1982) was a friend and associate of several prominent Canadian artists, including members of the Group of Seven. Davies’ work is included in major Canadian collections, including the National Gallery of Canada.

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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