ALEXANDER YOUNG JACKSON, O.S.A., R.C.A.
Private Collection, Toronto
A.Y. Jackson first experienced Georgian Bay as a holiday destination, staying with friends and cousins who owned islands off Penetanguishene during the summers of 1910 and 1911. He initially thought the region was “unpaintable,” consisting of “little islands covered with scrub and pine trees.” It was during the late summer and fall of 1913 that Jackson began to paint seriously at the Bay, especially after meeting Dr. James MacCallum and staying at his cottage in Go Home Bay through the month of October. It was that visit which inspired him to paint the pivotal work, Terre Sauvage, 1913 (collection of the National Gallery of Canada).
Georgian Bay was one of the locations that provided Jackson and other members of the Group of Seven with an appropriate landscape through which to realize their vision of Canadian art. It was a northern “wilderness” landscape onto which their notions of cultural nationalism could be projected. Although Jackson would paint in many regions across Canada during his lifetime, summer painting trips to Georgian Bay were part of his annual ritual and he continued painting there for many years. Similarly, he would paint in Quebec in late winter until the snow melted.
Jackson’s vantage point for this oil sketch of Georgian Bay was clearly from one of the humpback rocks to which he had rowed in order to look across the water at the rocky islands and shoals of pre-Cambrian rock that typify the region.
The high horizon line allowed Jackson to create an alternating rhythm of water and rock. Whereas Jackson’s earlier views of Georgian Bay emphasized the effects of the elements on a wilderness landscape, here it is the character of the rocks and the incidental details of the rock pools and sparse vegetation that attract the eye. The classic motif of windswept pines silhouetted against the sky sits along the horizon. The inclusion of the rowboat introduces a novel human element into the scene.