When Canada’s Group of Seven first broke into the art scene in the 1920s, some people were exited by this new way of painting our country’s landscapes – bright colours and rough brushstrokes – others were horrified because they had never seen work like it before.

“If we are to encourage immigration to this country, our federal government would be well advised to prevent some of the hideous paintings that are supposed to represent Canadian scenes being shown abroad -” Toronto Daily Star, 1930.

Ouch. I laughed out loud when I read that quote. That is some critique.

In Meet the Group of Seven by David Wistow and Kelly McKinley and the Art Gallery of Ontario ($12.99, Kids Can Press), there is also a quote from Group of Seven member Alexander Young Jackson:

“…there were two dozen lakes, many of them on on the map. For identification purposes we gave them names. The bright, sparkling lakes we named after people we admired like Thomson…to the swampy ones, all messed up with moose tracks, we gave the names of the critics.”

Also hilarious.

I confess, most of the Group of Seven’s works do not appeal to me as oil is not a form a enjoy looking at. However, of all the paintings shown in this kid’s book, Lawren Stewart Harris’ Lake Superior is my favourite. According to the book’s authors, the public at the time would have found it shocking because of its naturally smooth and simple shapes or as the Toronto Star Weekly wrote in 1926 “CRUELTY TO LANDSCAPE” (all in upper case no less. The critics comments make me laugh.).

I learned a lot about the friends who made up the Group of Seven and what they did to create their work. They were avid outdoorsman who explored Canada’s wildness, painting – most times – for the love of their art, while holding down jobs to fund it.

Each double page spread offers a header at what we will be learning (Painting a Portrait; The Mystery of Tom Thomson; How did the Group Paint?) and provides photos of the people and the art. The information is presented in short bursts, which I appreciate because otherwise the book likely wouldn’t have held my attention and I read Meet the Group of Seven cover to cover.

Whether you think the Group of Seven’s paintings are “more like a garble or a gob of porridge than a work of art” or “The works of these young artists deserve enthusiastic recognition and support” the book is an interesting look at this groups’ work.

A copy of this book was provided by Kids Can Press for an honest review.
The opinions are my own.