Chosen by: Christianne Wilhelmson
“If you grow up in Ontario, as I did, the Group of Seven are simply a part of your being – I think they put something in the water! In fact, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know who they were, their importance to the development of Canadian identity and been able to list many of the members. It wasn’t just that names and dates were pounded into our heads in history or art classes, but rather that what they managed to capture could be seen out the window of our car as my family made its way north to visit relatives. More than once I heard someone say, ‘it feels like we’re in a Group of Seven painting.’ Whether you liked their work or not, it’s hard to deny they captured the beauty of this country unlike any artists had done before. Though the works with fall colours and northern lakes resonate, the painting I chose here is of Mount Thule, a peak in what is now Nunavut… something completely different from my youthful day-to- day experience in Ontario. When I saw this painting, I found myself quickly taken back to various times in my life when Harris’ mountainscapes had stopped me in my tracks. Perhaps it was because it was so different than my environment that they took my breath away. He captures the vastness of Canada’s north – not with a detailed rendering – but rather, by managing to make you feel the immensity of the mountains through less detail, not more. Since coming west in 1995, I have found myself before landscapes like this, having my breath taken away by mountains and snow, reflected in a lake below, and once again finding myself living in a Group of Seven moment.”
Lawren Harris, Mount Thule, Bylot Island, 1930. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Purchased with donations from LOCATION. This painting will be on view in An Autobiography of Our Collection, opening on September 24th.
Christianne Wilhelmson is the executive director of an environmental organization in Vancouver, and is one of thousands of people who follows the Gallery on Facebook.