Painting The Highway
by the painters A.Y. Jackson and H.G. Glyde
Commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada in 1943, the project saw Jackson and Glyde travel the highway immediately following its initial completion. Over a three week period in October 1943, they produced numerous pencil and oil sketches of the personnel, equipment, land clearing, and roadwork. The resulting works are as much a reflection of each artist's personal vision as they are "records" of the Highway itself.
A senior and well-established artist by the 1940s, A.Y. Jackson, a founding member of the Group of Seven and official war artist during the First World War, was in his 60s when he undertook this project. His works give emphasis to the landscape surrounding the Highway and are typical of the kind of painterly representations of the country he had become famous for. They are deeply reminiscent of his images of rural Quebec and such diverse landscapes as Southern Alberta, the Skeena River and the coast of Newfoundland.
It is the younger, Western Canadian artist H.G. Glyde who seems to come closest to the project's goal of documenting the Highway and its construction. His works depict much more of the human experience including construction activity and the interiors of worker/soldier quarters. In addition to Glyde and Jackson, the Highway was also painted by Euphemia McNaught, Evelyn McBryan and, later, York Wilson and Sidney Clark Ells who produced drawings to illustrate his writings about the highway.