Foreword

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"Artistic expression is a spirit, not a method, a pursuit, not a settled goal, an instinct, not a body of rules. In the midst of discovery and progress, of vast horizons and a beckoning future, Art must take to the road and risk all for the glory of a great adventure."

Group of Seven: Exhibition of Paintings. Toronto: The Art Gallery of Toronto, 1922

The Group of Seven style of painting captured the rhythm and mood of the nation’s landscape. From Algonquin to Algoma, Lake Superior to the Rocky Mountains, Quebec to Nova Scotia, the artists traveled in search of the quintessential Canadian landscape painting. Armed with canoes, boards and paints, they interpreted the chaotic mass of nature in a bold, modern approach that differed from the Academic convention. To finance their expeditions, many of the artists worked in commercial art firms, designing illustrations, advertisements and elegant illuminated texts. Group members strove both to express their own love of nature and to develop nationwide support for the arts as a key to the country’s emerging cultural independence.

The Arts and Crafts movement believed that rapid industrial growth had brought about a separation between nature and humanity. Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau had spoken of the need to return to the land, and rediscover traditional practices of the past. Canadian writers and poets such as Bliss Carman and Pauline Johnson explored similar themes in literature, and commissioned members of the Group of Seven to illustrate their books. A lasting record of their artistic collaborations can be found within Toronto Public Library collections. This virtual exhibition examines the book illustrations and bookplates designed by the Group of Seven, in particular the work of J.E.H. MacDonald and A.Y. Jackson.