Artwork by Alexander Young Jackson,  Les Éboulements (c.1929)

A.Y. Jackson
Les Éboulements (c.1929)

oil on panel
signed lower right; signed, titled and dated “about 1928” with colour notations inscribed on the reverse; also inscribed “NJG 978” on the reverse
8 x 10.5 ins ( 20.3 x 26.7 cms )

Auction Estimate: $35,000.00$25,000.00 - $35,000.00

Price Realized $26,000.00
Sale date: June 15th 2022

Private Collection, Toronto
A.Y. Jackson exhibited with the Group of Seven from 1920 and played a key role in bringing the artists of Montreal and Toronto together. He and Edwin Holgate were the only two Group of Seven members native to Quebec, and both men frequently depicted the Quebec landscape. From Jackson’s inscription, we know he painted this sketch near Les Éboulements, east of Baie Saint Paul. One of Quebec’s most picturesque villages, it is named after a landslide in 1663 that was triggered by an earthquake in the Charlevoix region. Thereafter, the area was known as Les Éboulements, translating to “the landslides”.

Jackson first painted the sloping riverside village with Edwin Holgate in March 1923, writing to his cousin Florence Clement: “It’s snowing in Baie St. Paul. It seldom seems to stop and soon there won’t be anything to paint but snow. The fences have all disappeared... It’s almost impossible to get around. There has not been a thaw all winter and consequently no crusts on the snow, and even with my big snowshoes I sink down so far I can scarcely lift my feet. I expect to spend a week in the next village down - Les Éboulements - and then return here until mid-April.... I have to fill up fifty panels before I leave here.”

While this painting is inscribed “about 1928” on the reverse, it is recorded that Jackson travelled to Saint Urbain and Les Éboulements in the early spring of 1929 with Randolph Stanley Hewton and Alfred Henry Robinson. Jackson preferred to paint the Quebec landscape during the changing of seasons. The brown colour palette suggests hints of earth peeking out beneath the snow, and the sailboats float amid a mix of ice and water, all signalling hope that spring is on its way in a province known for its long winters.

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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