Alec's Life Before Ottawa

Born in Montreal, Alexander Young (A.Y.) Jackson began in the commercial art field at the age of twelve.

Following studies in Montreal and Chicago, like many young Canadian artists at the time, he left for Europe in 1907, continuing his studies in Paris, and travelling and sketching for several years.

Jackson’s first major canvas, The Edge of the Maple Wood (1910) was purchased by artist Lawren Harris, and spurred Jackson’s visit to Toronto where he met the future members of the Group of Seven, including Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, Franklin Carmichael, F.H. Varley and Franz Johnston.

In 1913, Harris invited Jackson to move to live and work in the Studio Building. There, Jackson shared a studio with Tom Thompson, and the artists began taking trips to Northern Ontario to sketch outdoors.

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Jackson served in the infantry until he was wounded in Flanders. He was then given the position of War Artist from 1917 to 1919.

In Toronto, Jackson was instrumental in founding the Group of Seven in 1920. The members adamantly promoted their mandate to create a new, modern, and nationalistic art for Canada based in depicting its vast wilderness.

Alone, or paired with other Group members, Jackson travelled extensively through the back country of Ontario with sketch box in hand, particularly Algonquin Park and Northern Lake Superior.

In 1933, the Group of Seven evolved into the Canadian Group of Painters, with which Jackson was affiliated for several decades. He continued to live mainly in Toronto, travelling, painting, and initiating new promotional projects for Canadian landscape artists, until he relocated to Manotick in 1955.