Alberta and the Group of Seven

Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre, Medicine Hat, AB

By Michael Turner
Much has been written about the Group of Seven and its place in Canadian history. Whether this concerns the Group’s contribution to a distinctly Canadian style of modern art, or to a nation distinct from its neighbour to the south, or a little of both, one thing is clear: the Group’s continued resonance has as much to do with their work as a plinth for Canadian art as it does with the actual pieces produced by this friendship of painters. A recent example includes the Group’s influence on early-20th-century Alberta art.
Guest curated by Mary-Beth Laviolette, this exhibition includes over 40 drawings and paintings of Alberta by the Group’s most frequent visitors, Lawren Harris and A. Y. Jackson, alongside work by a younger generation of Alberta-based peers and students. Of those younger artists (all of whom were born within a few years of Alberta’s 1905 entrance into Confederation), H.G. Glyde, Illingworth Kerr and W. L. Stevenson were residents of Calgary, while Annora Brown, Euphemia McNaught and Catharine and Peter Whyte hailed from Fort Macleod, Beaverlodge and Banff, respectively.
Alberta and the Group of Seven elaborates on how these artists from East and West shared an emotional bond, with a commitment to depicting the landscape of Canada,” writes Laviolette in her curatorial essay. “They all accomplished this bolder more modern style; influenced and shaped by earlier European developments such as Post- Impressionism.” Notable works include Harris’s Tumbling Glacier, Berg Lake (1929), Jackson’s Sunshine (Meadows, Banff) (1946) and Stevenson’s wind-whipped Valley Farm (no date).

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