ARTHUR LISMER, O.S.A., R.C.A.
Atlas Construction Co. Ltd. Collection
Galerie Claude Lafitte, Montreal
Private Collection, Toronto
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 11 Artists in Montreal: 1860-1960
The painting appears to have been created alla prima—from the Italian “at once”—meaning that it was made in a single session, without allowing the oil paint to dry between layers. Often, alla prima works are made in front of the subject itself, which suggests that this might be a panel made during one of Arthur Lismer’s exploratory painting trips into the Canadian landscape rather than in his studio.
Lismer laid his brushstrokes down on top of a burnt sienna ground; the underpainted layer peeks through in several places, notably the sky. There is a wonderfully vivacious quality to this section, as if Lismer was so caught up in the moment that he had to dash it down before it eluded him. One imagines the painter rapturously gazing upwards as the clouds scud across the sky, trying to capture a precise moment in time.
This painting was created in 1925, the midpoint of the Group of Seven’s formal partnership. Several other depictions of the Quebec countryside were completed in the same year, five of which are held in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Lismer had gone on an expedition with A.Y. Jackson and ethnologist Marius Barbeau, travelling to several Quebec villages around the St. Lawrence River in August of that same year. It was on this trip that Lismer found inspiration for his iconic Quebec Village (Saint-Hilarion), which was shown at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1926 and featured on a postage stamp in 2020 to celebrate the centenary of the inaugural Group of Seven exhibition. Indeed there are resemblances between these two paintings: both share a similar palette with an emphasis on vivid blue skies, rolling hills and fence posts that eagerly pull the eye towards the heart of the composition.