A.Y. Jackson, Letter to Lawren Harris, March 26, 1913

It seems impossible for me to express myself in writing to you and Signor MacDonald without hunting up a new crop of words. Your letter arrived here last night with the cheque all safe. MacDonald tells me you are a real enthusiast, a good live artist; one who can practice and preach and wallop the Dutchmen when occasion calls, and judging by your letter, I strongly suspect that MacDonald is right. Those poor Dutchmen! If they were not already dead I would shed a few tears for them.

It really looks as though the sacred fires were going to burst into flame in Toronto by the faithful efforts to yourself and MacDonald and the modest millionaire. We once had some smouldering fires in Montreal which might have blazed up if they hadn’t fanned them with bricks and wet blankets and built walls of pot-boilers about, cutting off the air and light. But when they built a new half-million-dollar gallery to house the crumbs and leavings of Europe, the poor fires petered out and died. Sad, isn’t it?

Yes, I am quite in accord with you. You have only to look over the catalogues of our exhibitions and you will see trails crawling all over Europe; ‘Winter in Holland’ – ‘Spring in Belgium’ – ‘Summer in Versailles’ — ‘Autumn on the Riviera’ – Ye Gods! – Monet pottering around Jamaica; Picasso hard at it in Japan; Renoir out in the Canadian Rockies; Sisley in Sicily – and the French impressionists would never have existed.

At the same time we must realize the limitations imposed upon the home article surrounded by people to whom art means nothing more than to go and copy something. Make something perfectly natural, fool people if possible, paint a stable and glue bits of straw on the front so you can’t tell just when the painted article ends and the real stuff begins.


Source: A. Y. Jackson, Letter to Lawren Harris in A Canadian Art Movement: The Story of the Group of Seven, F. B. Housser (Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada, March 26, 1913), 79-80

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