Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven
The WAG holds in trust a total of 94 works of art by the founding members of the Group of Seven. Formed in 1920 as a friendly gathering of like-minded artists at Toronto’s Arts and Letters Club, the Group is today a celebrated institution within Canadian art history. Their reputation was forged at a crucial time, during this country’s coming of age following World War I. The Group’s legacy was secured after they officially disbanded in 1933.
Although it is impossible to reduce the Group of Seven to a single origin, the figure of Tom Thomson looms large. Thomson died under mysterious circumstances three years before the Group formed, but not before introducing several of its future members to Algonquin Park. J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren Harris, Franklin Carmichael, A.Y. Jackson, Frederick Varley, Arthur Lismer, and Frank Johnston went on to create wilderness landscape paintings at the provincial park and elsewhere that became symbols of a distinctly Canadian cultural identity.
The Group positioned itself as a new school of Canadian painting. As such, its members eventually sought inspiration and subject matter from across the country. They all sketched extensively throughout Ontario and Quebec, from Lake Superior’s northern shore to the Laurentian mountains; Lismer and Varley produced well-known canvases of the East and West coasts, respectively; many of Jackson’s paintings of the Alberta foothills are as dynamic as those depicting the rolling hills of Quebec’s Charlevoix region; and Harris achieved aesthetic perfection in his crystalline representations of pristine arctic environments.
Johnston left in 1924 and was soon replaced by A.J. Casson. Montreal’s Edwin Holgate became the Group’s “eighth” member in 1930, and Winnipeg’s L.L. FitzGerald was invited to join in 1932 following MacDonald’s sudden death. A year later, seeking to become more relevant to a greater number of younger artists, the Group disbanded and helped to found the Canadian Group of Painters, whose original 28 members were drawn from across the country.
Related Programs & Events
Past Programs & Events
Celebrate Culture Days with a visit to the WAG!
Saturday, September 26, 2015 from 11am to 5pm
Stay up into the wee hours at this free, all night celebration of the arts with music, dance, film, and more!
Saturday, September 26, 2015 from 6pm to 3am
Embark on an exciting family tour of the galleries using our new WAG Art Adventure booklet.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015 from 1pm to 3pm
WAG curator of Canadian Historical Art, Andrew Kear tours a selection of some of the WAG’s most popular and captivating scenes by the iconic group of Canadian painters.
Wednesday March 30, 2016 at 12pm
It's been one hundred years since the Group of Seven created Canada's most iconic paintings, yet little is known about the artists themselves.
Wednesday April 13, 2016 at 12pm
- Tuesday 11am-5pm
- Wednesday 11am-5pm
- Thursday 11am-5pm
- Friday 11am-9pm
- Saturday 11am-5pm
- Sunday 11am-5pm
- Closed Monday