________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 7 . . . . November 26, 2004

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A.Y. Jackson: A Love for the Land.

Wayne Larsen.
Montreal, PQ: XYZ Publishing, 2003.
177 pp., pbk., $15.95.
ISBN 1-894852-06-0.

Subject Headings:
Jackson, A.Y. (Alexander Young), 1882-1974.
Landscape in art.
Group of Seven (Group of artists).
Painters-Canada-Biography.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by J. Lynn Fraser.

***½ /4

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:

Working quickly, the man sketches the scene before him with a few deft lines. His brush—which he holds in an overhand grip—darts back and forth across the reddish-orange birch panel … he renders the clear afternoon sky in broad, horizontal strokes…

He is not interested in attainting a perfectly accurate record of the scene before him…he wants to recreate the scene in such a way that line, colour, and the arrangement of objects all come together to form one cohesive work of art. (p. 2, p. 3-4)

     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:

“So you’re an artist,” His Lordship says gruffly, barely giving Jackson a glance.

“Yes sir, I am.”

“Fine…Are you any good?”

“I beg your pardon, sir…”

“I mean, are you a good artist? Any fool can slop paint around a canvas and call himself an artist. Are you a good artist?”

“Do you have any of your work with you?”

“No sir, I’ve been in the infantry for two years. It would have been inconvenient for me to carry it around.” (p. 57)

     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.

Highly Recommended.

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.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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