Autumn Cobalt, A.Y. Jackson, 1935. Oil on wood, 21.6 x 26.7 cm (8 1/2 x 10 1/2 in)
While Canada is known as the Great White North, thanks to the boundless blanket of snow that covers much of our land during the winter months, in the fall the country comes ablaze with the colours of deciduous leaves. The Group of Seven’s effort to capture the season’s beauty helped shape the way the rest of the world would come to know Canada. Thirty years after Autumn Cobalt was painted, the red maple leaf was selected for the new Canadian flag, becoming an emblem of Canadian identity!
Autumn was A.Y. Jackson’s favorite season to sketch in Northern Ontario. He would travel with his sketch box and create quick paintings, such as the one we see here. Jackson said of his work, “When I make a sketch, I emphasize the things I want and ignore the things I don't want. I don’t think of my sketch as a little picture, rather an idea for a big picture.” These sketches were brought back to his studio and used as models for bigger canvases which he would paint over the course of the winter. Autumn Cobalt was not made into a larger painting but this sketch is an excellent example of Jackson’s style.
A master at reducing his view into bold shapes and colours, Jackson imposed order on the landscapes he painted by focusing on shapes and colours rather than individual details. Beginning in the bottom right-hand corner, the composition of Autumn Cobalt zigzags left and right all the way to the distant hills in the background, creating motion and rhythm in the composition. The tree line in the foreground uses bold colours to grab the viewer’s attention, while the triangles of grey and blue tailings lead the eye back through the landscape to the headframes and the rest of the town. The wavy lines created by the road, the tailings and the hills all lead us to the upper left-hand corner where we find Cobalt and Cobalt lake blending into the distant hills and sky. This sketch effectively depicts nature as a sharp, vibrant living being, constantly in motion, even in the stillness of a canvas.
We have four other locally-inspired works of art from the Group of Seven that we would like to tell you about:
Telling you about the Group of Seven is a group effort being made by these partners: