Landscape Painting in the Badlands

Landscape Painting in the Badlands

Landscape Painting in the Badlands

A couple of years ago I attended a wonderful week-long art seminar in Drumheller, Alberta. It featured lots of activities, art instruction and comraderie. It’s called “Art Week in the Badlands”.

For those of you who don’t know about the Badlands, it really is quite an amazing place – especially from an archaeological perspective.  According to the tourism web site:
The region has been a fossil hotbed since the 19th century and shows no sign of running out of old bones. Some of the most important dinosaur discoveries in the world were unearthed right here. “

Drumheller is home to the Royal Tyrrel Museum of Paleontology. The Hoodoos, which are nearby, are weird rock formations that were created from centuries of erosion and all of this can be found deep in a valley that just seems to appear out of nowhere.

I am attending Art Week again this summer, but this time I will be wearing two hats – that of participant and presenter. Well known local landscape artist extraordinaire and organizer of this event, Jim Davies, has asked me to do a talk on the History of Landscape Painting.

om Thomson was not technically a member of the Group of Seven

om Thomson was not technically a member of the Group of Seven

It’s challenging to talk about such a topic in just half an hour as you can well imagine so I have simply picked out highlights. I’m planning to start my talk by discussing how the concept of landscape painting as worthy of artistic status really started-  in England. The artists that are most associated with this period are Constable and Turner. Their art came at a time when, due to the ill effects of the Industrial Revolution, society began to sentimentalize the countryside. There is no coincidence that this period is also known as the beginning of the garden movement – also in that country.

I will then focus my talk on other European artists, eventually moving to North America, then Canada (The Group of Seven) and finally to Alberta as represented by artist Illingworth Kerr. Kerr was a strong force in the development of the Alberta College of Art of Design where I graduated from many years ago.

I have especially loved doing research and reading about the Group of Seven. I have a new appreciation for their work and their attempt to create a true “Canadian” art movement. Up to that point the art that was available in Canada followed the European old style methods of painting.

AY Jackson

AY Jackson

The Group of Seven shook that up. Looking at their art today, it is strange to read about all the nasty, extremely nasty, things that were said about their art. One of the most interesting tidbits of information I learned is as follows:

The Group of Seven had a very successful showing of their work in England in the ’20s. At that same time the Minister of the Interior was charged with getting people to immigrate to Canada and of course England was one of the countries that the Minister was targeting. The ministry was furious with the showing of their paintings, saying that no one would ever move to Canada after seeing such terrible misrepresentations of the Canadian landscape!

Aah… I love history!