ALFRED J. CASSON: THE LANDSCAPIST OF THE GROUP OF SEVEN
By This image is available from the Archives of Ontario under the item reference code F 1075-16-0-0-216
Depicting the landscapes, forest and farms of southern Ontario with simplicity that eliminate all the nonessential, the Canadian Group of Seven Painter, Alfred Joseph Casson, is best-known for distilling his landscapes into highly finished and carefully composed designs and providing insight into the pastoral pioneering Canada that has now vanished in the face of a noisier urban world.
Famous for being the youngest member of the Group of Seven, Casson was born on May 17, 1898, in Toronto, Ontario, but he grew up in Guelph. In 1913, Casson studied art in Hamilton Technical School, and at Central Technical School in Toronto from 1915 to 1917. In 1919, Casson was taken on by the commercial art firm of Rous and Mann in Toronto. Apprenticed to Franklin Carmichael, he was encouraged by the older man to continue sketching and painting on his own.
Through Carmichael, Casson met his mentors, the Group of Seven, at Toronto’s Arts and Letters Club. In 1926, he was invited to join the Group of Seven and had replaced Johnston as a member of the Group. Throughout his career, Casson was fascinated with the watercolor medium and in 1926 he co-founded the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolor.
In 1927, Casson joined Sampson & Matthews and eventually became their art director and vice-president until his retirement in 1957. In his spare time, he continued his paintings, as well as his involvement with various art societies and associations. After the dissolution of the Group of Seven, Casson became a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters in 1933.
Casson developed a distinct painting style. His interpretation of the subtle variations of summertime green (i.e. Blue Heron) has become a trademark of his work. In the 1930s, he concentrated on Ontario’s villages and produced well thought-out compositions of mature work such as “Summer Sun” (1940) and “Anglican Church at Magnetawan” (1933). The dramatic lighting of his mid-1940s landscapes gave way to superimposed forms and light.
In 1940, Casson was elected as a full member into the Royal Canadian Academy and President of Ontario Society of Artists. He won the National Competition for Designing Poster for a Victory Bond in 1942. In 1948, he received the Province of Ontario Award and a Gold medal for distinguished service to advertising in Canada in 1957. In 1967, he earned a Silver Centennial Medal and in 1975, an Honorary Degree from University of Toronto.
A modest man, Casson died on February 20, 1992, at the age of 93 and was buried on the grounds of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, along with six other Group of Seven members.