Artwork by Alexander Young Jackson,  Les Éboulements

A.Y. Jackson
Les Éboulements

oil on panel
signed lower left; NJG inventory No. 2406 inscribed 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 $84,000.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Paul Duval, Toronto
Acquired by the present Private Collection, 1968
“Collector’s Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; travelling to Musée du Québec, Quebec City; Vancouver Art Gallery; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, 14 May 1988‒7 May 1989, no. 70
“Annual Group of Seven Dinner featuring works of art by Alexander Young Jackson”, The York Club, Toronto, 17 February 1999
“Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver Art Gallery; travelling to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary; Art Gallery of Hamilton, 29 October 2015‒5 September 2016
“Anne Savage fonds”, Library and Archives of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Dennis Reid, “Collector’s Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Toronto, 1988, no. 70, page 5, reproduced page 66 as 1933
Ian Thom, et al., “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver/London, 2015, page 201, reproduced page 124 as 1933
A native of Montreal, A.Y. Jackson’s first explorations of the Quebec landscape were in the Montérégie region, south‒east of Montreal. It was only after the First World War that he began to work along the Saint Lawrence, painting on the south shore opposite Tadoussac, around Rivière‒du‒Loup and Cacouna, with Albert Robinson in 1921. The following year the two artists painted around Bienville, now part of Lévis, across from Quebec City. It was only in 1923 that Jackson first painted in Charlevoix County that became his favourite site for almost annual late winter trips over the next two decades. That year he painted with Edwin Holgate at Baie−Saint‒Paul and in the village of Les Éboulements on the heights above Baie−Saint‒Paul and Île‒ aux‒Coudres. The village was named after the trembling caused by an earthquake in 1663.

Jackson returned to Les Éboulements briefly in 1927 and for longer periods in 1931 and 1932. His letters to Anne Savage give a vivid understanding of the latter trip and of the varying sketching conditions. On 3 April he wrote from Les Éboulements, where he had arrived with Randolph Hewton. “I still have 34 panels to mess up but we have lots of snow in spite of a 24 hour rain in March. ... The mail carrier took us up the big hill. On top it was blowing a howling gale with a cloud of flying snow blotting out the village while overhead the stars were peacefully shining....” However, on 11 April he wrote, “It clouded up just after we left for a hike down the St. Irenée Road. The snow is going in a rush & have only 30 panels, twenty to go.... Sheep, calves & pigs are out and pastures & ploughed lands coming through.” And on the 12th, “Raining all day ... [have] made more sketches from pencil notes than I ever did before.” By the 20th Jackson had moved on to Saint‒Hilarion. “These Quebec subjects are mostly houses.

They are strung along the roads like beads on a thread... You almost have to look up or down the roads unless you merely make portraits of single houses the way Johny Johnstone did. ... I may go over to Les Éboulements Sunday. It is nine miles nearer the station and the roads are so bad I might miss the Monday morning train.”

Jackson’s letters give us a clear portrait of the unpredictability of the weather conditions and difficulties of travel in the region during the late winter and early spring. Yet it was the changing season, rather than the snow‒blanketed landscape (“too much like Christmas cards”), that attracted Jackson and if the weather didn’t behave he relied on drawings (pencil notes) from which he could paint an oil sketch in his lodgings. He didn’t work in the village of Les Éboulements itself but hiked down the nearby roads to find his subjects ‒ to Sainte‒Irénée or the Côte des Misères – to find his subjects. This late winter sketch was probably painted in the hills nearby, the snow rapidly disappearing from the muddy road that leads past the houses and barns. The colours are skilfully balanced, the yellow house and blue‒streaked ruts bottom centre echoed in the blue and yellow strokes on the wall of the shed at the left, and the off‒white peak of the barn in the pinkish white snow lower right. In 1925 Jackson had written to Marius Barbeau that “it is the architectural subject that appeals to me in Quebec,” and architecture is present in almost all of his Charlevoix paintings. Both partake of a similar rolling rhythm so characteristic of Jackson’s best work.

In Naomi Jackson Groves’ inventory of the work of A.Y. Jackson, this sketch was catalogued as “Early Spring, Quebec” and undated. It was subsequently identified as depicting the landscape around Les Éboulements which, by comparison with other Les Éboulements paintings, is probably correct, and dated 1933 which is incorrect as Jackson didn’t paint there that year. The panel was split subsequent to Naomi Groves’ cataloguing of the painting.

We extend our thanks to Charles Hill, Canadian art historian, former Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada and author of “The Group of Seven – Art for a Nation”, for his assistance in researching this artwork and for contributing the preceding essay.

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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