Artwork by Alexander Young Jackson,  Muskoka Farm

A.Y. Jackson
Muskoka Farm

oil on canvas
signed lower left
24 x 32 ins ( 61 x 81.3 cms )

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

Price Realized $57,600.00
Sale date: June 15th 2022

Acquired directly from the artist by a family friend
By descent to the present Private Collection, Toronto
At the turn of the 20th century, the growth of tourism in Ontario was rapid, and by 1907 Toronto regarded itself as “the gateway of the summer paradise of North America’’ in Muskoka, Georgian Bay, and Algonquin Park. Paintings of these regions by the Group of Seven helped to attract visitors, with their sublime panoramas and romantic depictions of the undeveloped land.

A.Y. Jackson painted the Muskoka region throughout his long and prolific career. This 1951 oil painting, “Muskoka Farm”, illustrates how the area has developed since the beginning of the century, with more densely populated farm country. A cedar fence extends diagonally across the canvas, likely defining a farm property line. The fields on either side of the fence are painted in Jackson’s characteristic fluid lines and rhythmic brushstrokes. The artist creates a charming scene of curved contours; even the large rock in the foreground has a gentle, wavy outline. A limited colour palette is used, with shades of purple and grey repeating in the rocks, fence, buildings and sky. Jackson completed this canvas while he was still based at the Studio Building in Toronto. He first stationed himself there in 1914, sharing a studio with Tom Thomson and later the Group of Seven members. 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 to complete his canvases during the winter, including the autumnal “Muskoka Farm”. Jackson left the Studio Building permanently in 1955. In a letter from Vancouver, Lawren Harris wrote: “Your moving from the Studio Building marks the end of an era, the one era of creative art that has the greatest significance for Canada... You were the real force and inspiration that led all of us into a modern conception that suited this country, and the last to leave the home base of operations.”

“Muskoka Farm” was acquired directly from Jackson, and likely depicts a subject close to Ziska Road by Muskoka Lake. The artist would often holiday at the consignor’s family cottage near Lake Muskoka in the 1950s, spending his days sketching the surrounding area and enjoying a packed picnic lunch with the family. Referred to as “Uncle Alec”, as Jackson was a distant relative, the consignor of this painting has fond memories of these summer days spent with the artist, as well as Jackson’s many visits to their family home in Toronto for dinner.

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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