A.Y. Jackson in 1953 Photo: The Montreal Gazette

A.Y. Jackson in 1953
Photo: The Montreal Gazette

Selected Collections
The Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC
The McMichael Gallery, Kleinburg, ON
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa ON

Awards and Memberships
Beaver Hall Group, President,  Montreal, (QC, 1920)
Original Member of the Group of Seven, (1919-1933)
Companion of the Order of Canada (1967)
Lifetime Achievement Medal, Royal Canadian Academy
Canadian Group of Painters, founder, (1932)
honorary doctorates:
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC
McMaster University in Hamilton, ON

A.Y. Jackson, 1882- 1974

Alexander Young Jackson was born on October 3, 1882 in Montreal, Quebec. His father was an unsuccessful businessman who abandoned the family while Jackson was still young. At 12 years old, Jackson began working as an office boy for a lithograph company to help his mother feed himself and his five siblings. Jackson’s early art training was partly on the job at the lithography firm and partly at night schools.

However, Jackson was worried that he would forever be confined to being a commercial artist, so he enrolled in the Académie Julian in Paris in September 1907 and stayed in Europe until December 1909, studying, travelling and sketching.

When he returned to North America, he landed in the USA, where he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and supported himself working on yet another lithograph press. He later returned to Montreal to take up studio painting again.

In 1910, Jackson painted Edge of the Maple Wood a canvas that gained him the attention of the other future Group of Seven artists. Jackson moved to Toronto in the fall of 1913 and moved into the Studio Building financed by Lawren Harris. Soon he was sharing his studio with Tom Thomson. 

Wanting to experience Thomson's north country, Jackson joined him on trips up to Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park in February 1914. That summer, after a trip to the Rockies, he was back in the park that fall with Thomson, Arthur Lismer and Fred Varley, and painted The Red Maple.

With the outbreak of World War One in 1915, Jackson enlisted in the Canadian Army and was sent to Europe. He was wounded in 1916 and while recovering in the hospital in Étaples in northern France, he met Lord Beaverbrook. After recovery, he was transferred to the records department as a war artist. From 1917 to 1919, he worked for the Canadian War Memorials as a war artist.

Having hardly any finances after the war, Jackson was often supported by various patrons. In 1919, Jackson joined the other members on Lawren Harris’ boxcar trips up to Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. The group developed their style on these trips, a sale of painting free from European influence, a style that was unique to Canada, dictated by untamed wilderness. 

After the Group of Seven’s last exhibition in 1931, The Canadian Group of Painters was formed with Jackson and Lismer as the two founders.

Jackson traveled to Banff in 1943 where he spent six years teaching at the Banff School of Fine Arts. Jackson continued to travel and paint and mentor other young artists in his later years. Joe Plaskett and love-interest Anne Savage were were two artists who benefitted from Jackson’s mentoring.

Jackson was incapacitated by a stroke in 1968, and spent his last six years living at the home of Robert and Signe McMichael. Their home is now the McMichael Collection art gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario. 

He passed away on April 5, 1974 and was put to rest at a small cemetery on the McMichael property along with five other members of the Group of Seven and their wives.