Story Ideas

Follow in the footsteps of the Group of Seven, even if you’re not an artist

Explore the same spectacular wilderness landscapes

12 October 2011
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Canada’s wild landscapes have inspired generations of artists, none more so than Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. They became synonymous with our lonely lakes, fall foliage and snow-covered fields and tundra.

Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven is a special exhibit of their work at London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery, running from Oct. 19 to Jan. 8, 2012.

These early 20th-century artists travelled by train, canoe and on foot into the wilderness, taking their sketchbooks with them. They were, perhaps, our first tourists. The places they painted are still inspiring visitors today.

Algonquin Provincial Park – Tom Thomson spent summers fishing, canoeing and sketching in Ontario’s first provincial park. Wild rivers, placid lakes, wind-ravaged pine trees all captured his eye. After his tragic death in 1917 – his body was found in Canoe Lake – his friends built a memorial cairn at one of his favourite camping spots, then went on to form the Group of Seven.

Charlevoix, Quebec – A.Y. Jackson was considered the driving force behind the group and loved to venture into the winter landscapes on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Locals called him ‘Pere Raquette’ or Father Snowshoes for his habit of exploring on snowshoes. His painting Road to Baie-St. Paul captures a tiny village swathed in drifts of snow – a perfect ode to a Canadian winter.

Agawa Canyon and Ontario’s Algoma Country  on the north shore of Lake Superior were a big draw for the artists, especially in autumn when maple leaves turn brilliant orange and red. You can still journey by train into the canyon, through the granite rock of the Canadian Shield and past roaring rivers, unspoiled lakes and tumbling waterfalls.

Killarney Wilderness Park and La Cloche Mountains – Artist Franklin Carmichael built a cottage here in Ontario, while A.Y. Jackson was so enchanted with the white quartzite hills and crystal clear lakes that he campaigned for the area’s protection. Today, the park offers unbeatable canoeing and hiking.

Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park Among outdoor enthusiasts, this wilderness park in British Columbia tops their ‘to do’ lists. Again and again. Turquoise, glacier-fed lakes and soaring mountain peaks inspired Group of Seven artist J.E.H. MacDonald to write, “I got to the beautiful Lake O'Hara lying in a rainbow sleep, under the steeps of Mount Lefroy and the waterfalls of Oesa. And there I realized some of the blessedness of mortals."

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