CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 7 . . . . November 26, 2004
Wayne Larsen is a painter as well as a newspaper editor and writer. The author’s background is an asset for the readers of A.Y. Jackson: A Love for the Land as Larson’s understanding of the medium and his painter’s perspective add depth to his portrait of Jackson:
Jackson’s approach to painting, through Larsen’s prose, becomes a metaphor for his personality.
Larsen also adds snippets of conversation and re-enactments of scenes from the artist’s life to make the personality of the artist come alive:
The book begins and ends with Jackson as a mature artist. This narrative approach provides an easily understandable story arc for the reader. It also gives a solid foundation on to which historical and social events can be placed.
Larsen’s book details the journey of the artist from his early explorations of his chosen style and the constant early rejection that he received, his time as an official war artist for Canada, the formation of like-minded artists into the Group of Seven, and his creation of the prototype of Canada’s flag.
Readers will also learn about Canada’s journey from “young” nationhood into one of maturity that would necessarily entail sending its citizens into World War One. With that maturity would come a psychological separation from England and the European perspective that would facilitate the embrace of the Group of Seven and its Canadian approach to art.
There are many important life lessons included in this book. Perhaps the most important is holding on to a dream despite adversity. As well, the reader will understand that success often involves struggle, persistence and hard work. The strength of this book is that Jackson, his contemporaries, and his times are rendered in an easily accessible prose that enhances rather than detracts from the story being told.
The reproductions of Jackson’s work, as well as the photographs included in the book, help to further the story being told, but it is unfortunate that the black and white reproductions are not of a better quality. The paintings need to be seen in a sharper focus for the reader to appreciate the scenes rendered and the approach of the artist to his composition.
The index section of the book is quite detailed, and this would be helpful for students who might use the book as a research resource. There is also a list of books for the student at the back of the book. A list of web sites might also be helpful. The best resource, however, that the author has included is a detailed chronology of Jackson’s life that is shown alongside events in Canadian and world social, arts and economic history. Student readers might well ask themselves how they are affected by the times they are currently living through.
I highly recommend this book for students aged 12 and older. The book is a valuable teaching aid for students studying art, history, and society.
J. Lynn Fraser is a freelance writer whose articles are appear in national and international magazines and newspapers, and who has written two non-fiction books for children.
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