Pearl I.

Kingston, Ontario

Kingston Regional Fair

The Group of Seven: Brushstrokes of Canadian Community

This heritage project is an inquiry about the Group of Seven with the goal of finding out how they contributed to building communities across Canada. Through research, I found that the group shared a goal of creating an art movement that was distinctly Canadian. I felt that they flourished because they cultivated a community of artists where they learned from and supported one another. Their small group has grown into a national community of artists, their supporters, and people who appreciate the Canadian landscape. I discovered that while the group and their art were not always appreciated early on, in my opinion, they did bring the people of Canada together with a shared experience of our country and celebration of our land. I will share how I arrived at these conclusions through my research and by interviewing people in my community.

What was the most interesting thing you learned about your topic?

The most interesting thing I learned about the Group of Seven and their community was that the group seemed to care as much about community as about art. They supported and learned from one another, and provided opportunities for each other and their community of artists. They were not just focused on creating art, they wanted to create a unique Canadian modern art movement. At the time (forty years after Confederation), Canada was looking for a cultural identity. The Group of Seven helped to shape this identity. In an interview I did for my project, I learned how members of my community grew up hearing about the Group of Seven’s art and feel it was part of their Canada.

What important lessons have you learned that you want to share with other Canadians?

In researching the Group of Seven, I learned that in addition to their talent as artists, their clear vision of what they wanted to achieve and their community of support made it possible for them to succeed. I think this is important for Canadians to know because when you have a community of support around you it is easier to make your dreams a reality. I also think it is important for people to know that even famous artists can be unsure about whether their art is good enough to share. For example, Lawren Harris, a member of the Group of Seven, was known to destroy his early artwork because he did not think it was good enough to keep. Tom Thompson also did not believe his paintings could be good enough to become a painter early on. I learned that their art was very controversial and was not well received initially. I think this is important because new ideas sometimes take time for people to appreciate and just because people might not like your idea at first, if you believe in it, you should keep trying. Another interesting fact I learned was that Tom Thomson learned to paint in his 30s. I think this is important because it shows that we should always keep learning new skills.

How would you compare your life today to the lives of those studied in your project?

While there are many key differences in life today because of technological and societal advancements compared to life at the time of the Group of Seven, I believe that life is very similar in some of the most important aspects. Some key differences are: Thanks to technology, it is easier for me to create and be involved in communities, even with people who live far away. I grew up with Canada having a long-standing cultural identity. There is more freedom of expression in the art world today. I can create art using any style and subject matter and it would be received based on its merits. At the time of the Group of Seven, art was modelled after European artists and styles and work by the Group of Seven (including Emily Carr, their honorary member) was not well received at first because of the subject matter and the way their art was painted. As a Canadian now, my community appreciates and explores the Canadian wilderness. At the time of the Group of Seven, people would not go into “wild areas” without a guide if at all. Some key similarities are that it is still important to: have a supportive community, pursue what you believe in, build relationships with each other, and learn from each other.