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Group of Seven represented

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services
Friday, August 3, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Among the fine artworks hanging at the Legislative Assembly are 11 paintings by A.Y. Jackson, purportedly the largest single collection by the Group of Seven artist outside of a museum or gallery.

"At the meeting of the NWT Council held on Dec. 22 1949, the council approved the expenditure of $3,000 for the purchase of the canvases which had been painted by A.Y. Jackson during and after a visit to the Northwest Territories," reads a 1963 Disposition of Territorial symbols and appurtenances.

And while the purchase price was no small sum in 1949, by today's standards it was nothing short of a bargain. Two years ago, an A.Y. Jackson painting entitled In Jasper Park was auctioned at Sotheby's Canada for $548,750.

Among the 11 canvasses at the Legislative Assembly are two 'field sketches' - smaller paintings used to create larger versions. Of the 11 works, nine are displayed in the Caucus where MLAs meet to discuss government strategy outside of the assembly's Chamber.

"It's very rare to get both the field sketch and final painting together," said Patricia Russell, public affairs advisor to the Legislative Assembly.

Jackson, who lived from 1882 to 1974, was a First World War artist prior to becoming a driving force behind the Group of Seven (which ultimately included 10 painters), who captured Canada's rugged landscape in a unique impressionistic style.

Accepted today as a genuine Canadian art movement, the painters' style took time for the public to warm towards.

"Lawren Harris, the man most responsible for drawing the Group of Seven together, was accused of something perilously close to treason - his paintings, said his severest critics, were discouraging immigration," Jackson once said.