In Search of the Group of Seven

in Current, Resources by susan

Woodland Waterfall - Tom Thomson 1916


The most important thing a painter can do is find a good place to sit. – J.E.H. MacDonald


Like most avid Canadian landscape painters, we are drawn to the story of the Canadian artists the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson.

Part of the mystery of this group includes finding the original locations where they painted in situ – or en plein air. As books and other film have shown, a number of these locations are remote and untouched in the almost 100 years since the group first started heading into the rugged near-north country of Ontario.

What follows is a brief listing of what we’ve discovered recently, through conversations with Group of Seven researchers, fellow artists, AGO, The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and a growing number of books on these artists.


Painted LandPainted Lands: In Search of the Group of Seven – this film is a modern day adventure, up mountains, down canyon rivers and over portages, with Historian Michael Burtch, and the writer and photographer team of Gary and Joanie McGuffin, as they try to achieve their own personal quest: to actually ‘walk in the Group of Seven’s footsteps’.

Director Phyllis Ellis says: “The deeper meaning of the film is rather simple. Lawren Harris said “A word to Canada. believe in the artist”. His words echo all of us who live creative lives in our country filled with extraordinary talent. We should not only celebrate the extraordinary work of this group of seven remarkable painters but remind ourselves to honour all of the artists in every discipline who define Canadian culture.”

Trailer for this film on Vimeo


West Wind – The Vision of Tom Thomson – a documentary of Tom Thomson, who grew up near Owen Sound, worked, painted, and died in Algonquin Park.West Wind film

Michèle Hozer, Co-Director/Editor says: “Tom Thomson like the others is unpretentious, focused, and follows his heart when it was not necessarily the most popular thing to do. And it is by choosing this unpopular and unknown path that he was able to make the greatest contribution. As Charlie Hill so rightly said in the film what would we be left with if Tom Thomson had gone to war? It’s by focusing on the simple and less obvious things and extracting meaning which makes Tom Thomson’s message so universal and so valid even today – almost a century later.”

Many of Thomson’s works can be seen at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg), and TOM (Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound).

January 27-April 15, 2018: An exhibition of 20 of the Tom Thomson Gallery’s Tom Thomson paintings are accompanying the TOM’s travelling exhibition, Betwixt & Between: An Untold Tom Thomson Story at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa


Winds of Heaven: Emily Carr
Winds of Heaven: Emily Carr, Carvers & The Spirits of The Forest – An impressionistic exploration of the spirit that informed the solitary life of one of Canada’s most celebrated and irrepressible painters. Emily Carr began painting in an era when women didn’t, at an age when most people shouldn’t, traveling to remote locations that few professional adventurers chose to go. Not only did she adopt the painting techniques of modernism, when such ideas were considered dangerous, Carr chronicled the extraordinary art and culture of native peoples, who were invisible to the dominant culture.

Artist Lawren Harris says of her: “The work of Emily Carr and the circumstances in which it was achieved are unique in Canada. She was a passionate, powerful and creatively determined individual who turned fully to her beloved woods and skies and Native Villages. From the earliest work of her girlhood and on into the work of her last years, in hundreds of paintings and sketches, there unfolds the inner story of a vital adventure, full of intense struggle to achieve and the reward of the living embodiment in paint of her love.”

Visiting Victoria, British Columbia? Be sure to see the Emily Carr House and Gardens, a National and Provincial Historic Site.

Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris

Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren HarrisLawren Harris was one of the financial supporters and a member of the Group of Seven. He followed the spiritual path of Theosophy (along with many artists and musicians of the early 20th century). This new release is available online for viewing at TVO

Harris is credited with being most responsible for the formation of the Group of Seven. As A.Y. Jackson claimed: “Without Harris there would have been no Group of Seven. He provided the stimulus; it was he who encouraged us to always take the bolder course, to find new trails.”

Harris’s art reflected his interest in Theosophy and Biology and his search for deeper spiritual meaning.

Winter Landscape by Lawren Harris 1918
Winter Landscape by Lawren Harris, 1918

Lawren Harris is buried in the small cemetery on the McMichael gallery grounds, along with 5 other Group of Seven artists and their wives. The cemetery is located on a small grassy knoll with views of the river valleys, the woods, the Tom Thomson Shack and the distant roofs of the gallery.


In the Footsteps of the Group of Seven by Jim and Sue Waddington – In July of 1977, Jim and Sue began a thirty-six year journey of discovery to locate, document, and photograph the actual landscapes that inspired and influenced the brushes of the Group of Seven. It’s a remarkable book, containing comparative photos and prints of the paintings inspired by our beloved Canadian near-north Ontario.

Film Posters from White Pine Pictures

Artwork from

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