Depicting the Canadian wilderness by featuring rolling rhythms and rich, full colors of Neo-Impressionism, the Canadian landscape painter, Alexander Young Jackson, is revered as the leading artistic figure in Canada, whose creative art has significantly contributed to the development of art in 20th century Canada.
Best-known as the leading member of the Group of Seven, Jackson was born on October 3, 1882, in Montreal, Québec. At 12, he began working for a Montreal lithographic company to help his mother feed the family. While working there, he developed an interest in art and began to take evening classes to train as an artist.
Around 1898, Jackson began his formal art studies at Montreal’s Monument National under Edmond Dyonnet , then at the Art Association of Montreal under William Brymner. In 1905, he took his first trip to Europe, then in 1906, he went to the United States to take classes at the Chicago Art Institute. After his return to Montreal in 1907, he sailed for France to study in Paris under Jean Paul Laurens at the Académie Julian, where he was influenced by Impressionism and produced one of his first major pieces entitled “The Edge of Maple Wood”.
After his studies, Jackson traveled and painted in England, France and Italy, returning to Montreal in 1909. In 1911, he was in France again, with trips to England, Italy and Hungry, returning to Canada in 1913. In the May of 1913, he went to Toronto, meeting future Group of Seven members J.E.H. McDonald and Arthur Lismer at the Arts and Letters Club, and later, Lawren Harris.
Jackson took his first trip to Georgian Bay, meeting patron Dr. James MacCallum, who offered him a year's financial support if he took studio space in the now-famous Studio Building in Toronto. In 1914, he moved in, initially sharing his studio with Tom Thompson, and began taking part in sketching trips to Algonquin Park with other artists.
After seeing action in World War I in 1915, Jackson was appointed a war artist in 1917, and worked for the Canadian War Memorials until his discharge in 1919. In the autumn of that year, he finally joined the Group of Seven and exhibited with them throughout the next decade. In 1920, he was elected president of the newly formed Beaver Hall Group in Montreal.
By 1924, Jackson began to teach at the Ontario College of Art, but resigned after one year to continue his outdoor sketches. In his later years, Jackson continued to travel and paint and mentor other young artists. Visiting Europe again in 1936, he often traveled around Canada on art expeditions. By 1941, he received an honorary doctorate from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. He traveled to Banff in 1943, where he spent six years teaching at the Banff School of Fine Arts. During this time, he was also the art columnist for the Toronto new.
In 1953, Jackson returned to Ontario, where he received another honorary doctorate from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. In 1960, he again received two honorary doctorates both from the University of Saskatchewan and from the University of British Columbia. In 1967, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada- the highest honor bestowed on civilians for outstanding achievements and excellence.
Incapacitated by a stoke in 1968, Jackson spent his last six years living at the home of Robert and Signe McMichael (now the McMichael Collection art gallery in Kleinburg. He finally passed away on April 5, 1974, and was put to rest at a small cemetery on the McMichael property.