Arthur Lismer (Canadian, 1885–1969), Temagami, Portage, 1945. Oil on canvas. 52.5 x 65 cm.

Arthur Lismer, Temagami Portage, 1945, oil on canvas
Arthur Lismer was an English-Canadian painter, who immigrated to Canada at the age of 23. In Europe, Lismer studied art at the Academie Royale and apprenticed at a photoengraving company. Once in Canada, Lismer worked at Grip. Ltd. in Toronto, a commercial art firm, along with other members of the Group of Seven. A founding member of the Group of Seven, Lismer is credited with naming the group. For his artistic excellence and contribution to Canadian art, Lismer was made a Companion to the Order of Canada, the highest honour for a civilian.

Lake Temagami, on which Portage Bay is located, gets its name from Te-mee-ay-gaming, which means "deep water by the shore" in Anishinaabe. Lake Temagami is world renown for its clear deep waters, its sweeping ‘fingers’ stretching over 1,000 km of shorelines and its approximately 1,259 islands. It is also home to one of Ontario's last remaining old-growth forests. Carved into the beautiful Canadian Shield, this lake is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Ontario’s wilderness.

The bold colours, messy details, and fantastical nature of Temagami, Portage are a beautiful example of the post-impressionist style that the Group of Seven is known for. Here Lismer lets the strong blue of the water call to you through the dense woods. The bright orange canoe lying upturned on the banks of the lake draws the eye into the painting, inviting the viewer to come swim or paddle along the deep blue waters.

“owh netum duzhetaybikgudenay Keewaydenoong kuhya isquah meno kuskandumahwin kezhegudoon n’aunjebemahdezaywin … owh noopeming, owh meekunun, sahguhhegunun, gahkijwaunun …. muhmahje kuhpashewin oonje payzhig mahmaundah’ng sahguhegun menuhwah … onegum kuhya pedukshemaun ewh nebahgun, keegokaywin kuhya muhzineebegawin … kuhya puhgayje kinah, o’weejiwaygaun g’chi owh weeuk, o’mahmakaydenaun cheemaun ayood, wahgahkud, kuha puhgaydaube.”

Translated into Ojibwe by Duane Paul of Bear Island, Temagami First Nation

Lismer’s first trip north with fellow artist Tom Thomson made a great impact on his life and art. He said, “The first night spent in the North and the thrilling days after were turning points in my life ... the bush, the trails, lakes, waterfalls ... moving camp from one wonderful lake to another … portage and tent pitching, fishing and sketching … and above all, the companionship of a great individual, a wonder with canoe, axe and fish line.”

It is fitting that the site of Temagami, Portage is now located in Finlayson Point Provincial Park as many locations chosen by the Group of Seven have become provincial and national parks. This is a testament to the significant contribution the Group of Seven has made to environmental conservation in Canada.

We have four other locally-inspired works of art from the Group of Seven that we would like to tell you about:

Autumn Cobalt, A.Y. Jackson, 1935. Oil on Wood
Houses, Cobalt, Franklin Carmichael, c. 1931-1932. Linocut
Ontario Mining Town, Cobalt, A.Y. Jackson, 1933. Oil on wood
A Northern Silver Mine, Franklin Carmichael, 1930. Oil on canvas

Telling you about the Group of Seven is a group effort being made by these partners:

City of Temiskaming Shores
Destination Northern Ontario
Northeastern Ontario, Canada
Province of Ontario
Temiskaming Art Gallery