When fellow Group of Seven member Lawren Harris finally sold the famed Studio Building in 1948, life began changing for long-time tenant A.Y. Jackson.
A new above-ground subway track cut off easy access to the neighbourhood, friends moved out, and he was told to wear felt shoes in the studio and stretch canvas in the basement.
That year, Jackson enlisted the help of longtime friend and fellow artist Maurice Haycock to locate land to purchase just outside Ottawa in the town of Manotick next to the home of his niece Constance Hamilton. 5
There, Jackson had a home and studio built. Designed by M.G. Nixon, it consisted of two structures inlaid into the hillside and picture windows facing the Rideau River, and in 1955, at the age of 72, the artist moved in.
A journalist described Jackson’s Manotick studio as being “ideal for a painter” because of its views of the river. 6
Jackson agreed: the north wall was comprised entirely of windows that not even his cleaning woman was allowed to touch. 7
Arthur Lismer, a fellow Group of Seven member, once doodled a portrait of Jackson into the grime with the words, “I fight to see no one cleans the window.”8
Many people believed that this move hearkened Jackson’s retirement. But he did not agree. While living in Manotick, Jackson roamed regionally, welcoming the opportunity to sketch various places throughout the Ottawa Valley.
In the Firestone Collection there are twenty-five sketches that Jackson made in the Ottawa Valley at various locations ranging from just east of Algonquin Park to areas such as Perth, Combermere, Eganville, and the Gatineau Hills; locations that are mapped out on the A.Y. Jackson Trail, created by the Ottawa River Institute in 2012.
Jackson also continued to travel nationally (out West and to the northern regions of the country) for four to five months of the year during this time, before returning home to Manotick to paint canvases from his sketches.
5 .Wayne Larsen, A. Y. Jackson:The Life of a Landscape Painter, Toronto, Dundurn Press, 2009, p. 197.
6. W.Q. Ketchum, « A. Y. Jackson at 80: ‘The World’s a Bloody Awful Mess But With Still a Glimmer of Hope’ », The Ottawa Journal (29 septembre 1962).
7. I. Norman Smith, « In His Studio: A Sketch of A. Y. Jackson », The Ottawa Journal (23 novembre 1964).
8. O. J. Firestone, The Other A. Y. Jackson, Toronto, The Canadian Publishers, 1979, p. 36-37.
The CBC documented the famous A.Y. Jackson’s arrival to Manotick in 1955. They followed Jackson while he worked alongside friend and Ottawa-based painter Dr. Maurice Haycock. The film emphasizes that he was not retired, and that he remained as active as he was twenty years earlier. CBC Digital Archives A.Y. Jackson Still Painting at 73, 1955 12 min 25 sec