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Prospecting for painting sites

This week's 'Outdoors in Algoma' features sites frequented by members of The Group of Seven
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2017-12-21 Outdoors in Algoma Batchawana
Photo courtesy of James Smedley

Prospecting for painting sites has been a great way to experience this singularly gorgeous area of Algoma.

It was the promise of a wild and ruggedly beautiful wilderness that brought Canada’s Group of Seven to Algoma and the North Shore of Lake Superior. Although that was close to 100 years ago, many of the places they visited remain as they did when they were first painted. Revisiting places depicted by Canada’s famous group of painters is a great way to appreciate their art and a conduit towards grasping the magnificence of northern Ontario. It’s also an excellent way to capture some moments of our own.

Many areas are actually quieter now than when they were painted. I recently flew with Wilderness Helicopters over the near-deserted fishing village of Port Coldwell. When it was painted by Lawren Harris in 1923 it was a busy fishing port that also serviced the coal burning engines of Canadian National Railway. Today, there are clearings and the remains of boats and docks that point to a busy past, but it’s the distinctive wooded hills that enveloped the sheltered cove that remain as captivating as ever.

Back on the ground, my search for Group of Seven painting sites concentrates on the work of A.Y. Jackson. The painter spent time through the 1950s and 60s in the Algoma Region, working out of a cabin on a Lake Superior beach, near Wawa. Each visit resulted in numerous paintings and sketches and additional works depicting the Wawa area continue to resurface.

So far there are about twenty A.Y. Jackson paintings of the area that I’ve been made aware of, thanks to the research of local Group of Seven enthusiasts like Lake Superior resident, Joel Cooper, Naturally Superior Adventures owner, David Wells, and local historian Johanna Rowe. Rowe says the inspiration to search out A.Y. Jackson painting locations came from Jim and Sue Waddington, who identified several Wawa area A.Y. Jackson painting sites in their book, Following in the Footsteps of the Group Of Seven.

Prospecting for painting sites has been a great way to experience this singularly gorgeous area of Algoma, and to capture some worthwhile moments of my own.

- James Smedley

Read the full article about discovering the Group of Seven painting sites