Alexander Young Jackson
Having left school at the age of 12, Jackson began working in a lithograph company in 1902. He attended classes at Montreal's Le Monument National and with William Brymner at the Art Association of Montreal. In 1906, he went on to Chicago, where he joined a commercial art firm and took courses at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Having saved his earnings, Jackson, in 1907, was able to visit France to study Impressionism and to study under Jean-Paul Laurens at Paris's Académie Julian. Adopting an Impressionist style, Jackson decided to become a professional painter and to remain in France until 1912.
After having also visited Italy and the Netherlands, Jackson returned to Canada and settled in Sweetsburg, Quebec. In 1913, he held his first single artist exhibition at the Montreal Art Gallery. Unable to make ends meet and discouraged by the Canadian art scene, a disappointed Jackson considered moving to the United States. A letter from artists J.E.H. MacDonald, however, changed his mind. In the letter, MacDonald inquired about Jackson's painting The Edge of the Maple Wood which he had seen in a Toronto art show. Toronto artist Lawren Harris, MacDonald wrote, wanted to buy the painting.
As a result of the sale, Jackson struck up correspondence with MacDonald and Harris and also eventually struck a friendship with artist Tom Thomson, with whom he shared space in the Studio Building on Severn Street in Toronto, where he remained until 1955.
These artists—Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, J.E.H. MacDonald, and Tom Thomson—along with Canadian landscape painters Franklin Carmichael, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, and Frederick Varley, formed the Group of Seven. Strongly influenced by European Impressionism of the late 19th century, the members of the group embraced landscape themes and sought to develop a bold style, depicting on canvas scenes from Algonquin Park, Georgian Bay, and Algoma.
During the First World War, Jackson joined the infantry and served as a private in the Canadian Army. Wounded at the Battle of Sanctuary Wood in June 1917, Jackson was transferred to the Canadian War Records branch as an artist and, from 1917 through 1919, he worked for the Canadian War Memorials.
Following the First World War, Jackson was reunited with the Group of Seven and, in 1924, he taught at the Ontario College of Art, resigning a year later. In 1933, he helped found the Canadian Group of Painters. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada in 1943, Jackson and contemporary H.G. Glyde produced numerous pencil and oil sketches of the personnel, equipment, land clearing, and roadwork on the Alaska Highway. From 1943 through 1949, he taught at the Banff School of Fine Arts and was an art columnist for the Toronto News.
In 1967, Jackson was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. He was incapacitated by a stroke in 1969 and lived as artist-in-residence at the McMichael Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario from that year.
Jackson is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including honorary doctorates from Queen's (1941), McMaster (1953), Carleton (1957), and McGill Universities (1967) and from the Universities of Saskatchewan (1962) and British Columbia (1966).
He passed away 5 April 1974 in Kleinburg, Ontario. He was 91.