I was stunned.
“Good God!” I responded. “Did you even know this painting existed?”
“Nope!” was the response.
Sometimes, people, amazing things just fall out of the sky. This was one of those times.
The message exchange was between me and my friend Elaine Kapusta. We’re two of the large group of volunteers working to put together Queensborough’s second Historic Queensborough Day, following up on the huge success of our first such event in 2014. This year’s edition takes place on Sunday, Sept. 10, and you can read a lot more about it in my post from last week, which is here. But let’s get right back to the amazing surprise of a painting of Queensborough by A.Y. Jackson, and the fact that it will be on display on Sept. 10.
As many of you will know, A.Y. Jackson is one of the most famous and highly regarded painters in Canadian history. He was a member of the Group of Seven, painters who basically changed Canadian art – and the way we look at the Canadian landscape – forever. Think Lawren Harris‘s paintings from north of Lake Superior and his mountainscapes (one of which sold at auction last year for $11.2 million, a Canadian record). Think Tom Thomson‘s scenes of ragged and hardy pine trees, notably his seminal work The Jack Pine. (Thomson was not a member of the Group of Seven, but was closely associated with them.) And yes, think A.Y. Jackson’s scenes of rural Quebec…
…and of the Canadian wilderness, particularly in Ontario’s near north:
“A.Y. Jackson was a leading member of the Group of Seven and helped to remake the visual image of Canada,” says the Canadian Encyclopedia in its entry about him here.
The painters in the Group of Seven “spoke with a new voice – the voice of Canada,” says a fascinating National Film Board of Canada documentary about Jackson from 1941, which you can watch here. “A foundation member of the group, and foremost among those who spoke in this new way, is Alexander Young Jackson. Born in Montreal in 1882, he is today the leading Canadian landscape painter. He has travelled from the whaleback rocks of Georgian Bay to Baffinland and up to the Arctic. He has sketched in Halifax, and in the fishing villages of the Gaspé along the Gulf of St. Lawrence where houses cling to the steep cliffs. In doing so, he has produced his own essence of Canada – vast, rhythmic, vigorous.”
And now think about this: on Historic Queensborough Day, you will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to view a painting of Queensborough by A.Y. Jackson!
I can hardly find the words to express how excited I am about this. Nor can I find sufficient words of thanks to the person (who wishes to remain anonymous) who has offered to make this one-day loan of such an important work of art.
Queensborough has long been known as a favourite destination, and subject, for artists. I wrote here about the days when students at the Schneider School of Fine Arts in the nearby Elzeviir Township hamlet of Actinolite would regularly pile into our little village, plunk themselves and their easels down at various street corners, and work on sketches of homes, sheds, barns and landscapes. When I close my eyes and think back to those days of my childhood, I can still remember the interesting and rather exotic scent of their oil paints that would waft up when you timidly looked over their shoulders to see their works in progress.
But to think that a member of the world-famous Group of Seven visited, and painted, here in Queensborough!
The painting will be on display at the Queensborough Community Centre, which is headquarters for Historic Queensborough Day. Also at the centre – itself an important historic building in our hamlet, since it was our one-room schoolhouse from the time it was built in 1900 until the mid-1960s – will be a raft of displays of photos, documents and artifacts on many aspects of Queensborough’s history. Another highlight will be the display of Queensborough Quilt Lady Goldie Holmes‘s famous quilt featuring homes and buildings in the village. It too will be on show at the community centre (1853 Queensborough Rd.), thanks to a one-day-only loan from the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre where it usually resides.
But a painting of Queensborough by A.Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven – holy smokes! Surely you need no further inducement to come join us on Sunday, Sept. 10. Though in case you do, let me remind you that the day will also include:
- Horse-drawn wagon tours of the village
- A visit from Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald (a onetime Queensborough property-owner)
- A presentation on the latest available research on Queensborough’s Indigenous history
- A vintage and classic car show
- A peek into some of the hamlet’s most interesting buildings
- The opportunity to have your family’s portrait taken at the historic Kincaid house, and share for our records your connections to Queensborough
- A visit to the amazing grounds and gardens at St. Mary of Egypt Refuge
- Sunday worship in historic St. Andrew’s United Church
- And food! There’ll be an all-day barbecue at the Queensborough Community Centre, and goodies and sweets also for sale there.
All this and a Group of Seven painting of our lovely little village: what more could you ask for?