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This year's Canada Day issue presents a 75th anniversary tribute to Canada's esteemed painters, the Group of Seven. The issue comprises three souvenir sheets, with two sheets featuring three stamps and the third sheet containing four stamps. The seven original members were Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Frank (Franz) H. Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frederick Horsman Varley. Johnston resigned in 1920 and was replaced by A.J. Casson in 1926. Edwin Holgate was elected a member in 1930 ans L. LeMoine FitzGerald joined in 1932. Most of the original members met as employees at the Toronto commercial art firm, Grip Engraving Co. Inspired by fellow Grip employee and avid outdoorsman Tom Thomson, these artists began painting the rugged Ontario northland, particularly Algonquin Park. Although Tomson died in 1917 - three years before the Group was formally created - his influence was such that he was considered a "working" member un the eyes of the others. The onset of the First World War dispersed the Group, with members going separate ways. Following the war, with Lawren Harris being the "catalyst and leader", the Group of Seven decided to bring attention to their common creative aims by holding an exhibition in May 1920 at the Art Gallery of Toronto. Many members believed that the Group existed without the name 10 years earlier but became a unit for self-defense and a protective alliance. Their final showing was in 1931. Although not exclusively landscape painters, the Group of Seven identified themselves as a landscape school. What was new in the Group's paintings were the sites they depicted. Stylistically, the members developed a unique form of landscape painting with bright, bold images, simplified forms and raw surface patterns. They stressed a less intellectual and more tactile approach to art, characterized by simplicity, and it had been noted that the Group of Seven paintings seem pervaded with a profound, deathly calm. Amid sharp criticism of their paintings, the Group found a champion in Eric Brown, director of the National Gallery of Canada. In 1924, the National Gallery selected a number of Group of Seven paintings as well as a few other Canadian paintings to be included at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, England. The Royal Canadian Academy was livid, as were many Members of Parliament. However, the Group gained international exposure and in retrospect, garnered a strong vote of confidence for the National Gallery. The Group of Seven may have lasted formally for only a little more than a decade, but they helped create a national identity based on our rugged land while establishing a permanent place in the history of Canadian art and the hearts of Canadians.
Based on a painting by Alfred Joseph Casson. Designed by Alain Leduc.
Alfred Joseph Casson, "Mill Houses", 1928 Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
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Canada Post Corporation. Canada's Stamps Details, Vol. 4, No. 3, 1995, p. 15-17.
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