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Historic Art | Arthur Lismer R.C.A.

Sumac and sunshine georgian bay 1944 ob 12

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Sumac and Sunshine, Georgian Bay 1944

Technique: oil on panel

Dimensions: 12.5 x 16.5 in.

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In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s Lismer began observing landscape from a different perspective than ever before. He brought attention to the foreground, an area that is colleagues from the Group of Seven generally ignored. “For in the foreground, right at his feet, is where life began.”1

Lismer painted the gnarled roots of trees fighting for power in the rocks and ferns of the undergrowth. He recognized the importance of the fallen leaves and mulch; the forest’s origin, the life force of the landscape. “This force permeated every facet of flora and fauna, earth and water. Lismer’s feeling for growth lent a drama and a vitality to whatever he painted. Storm or stillness, sun or shadow, rock or tree, every animate or inanimate thing vibrated for him, and his portrayals were are varied as his subjects.”1

Sumac and Sunshine, Georgian Bay is a great example of Lismer’s obsession with the foreground. Although the sky is painted a radiant blue, the rocks and brush take precedent in a prism of purples, greys, greens and yellows. A stunted sumac tree is at the center, it’s leaves painted in a full spectrum of autumnal hues. The northern landscape of Georgian Bay pulsates, transforming into a tropical jungle, full of vigour.

1Lois Darroch, Bright Land: A Warm Look at Arthur Lismer, 1981

About the Artist

For sixteen years, beginning in 1951, Arthur Lismer would spend part of each Summer at Wickaninnish Bay, Long Beach on Vancouver Island. Lismer and his wife Esther would set out by train from Montreal to Vancouver. From Vancouver they took the ferry across to Nanaimo, a taxi to Port Alberni, a supply boat to the town of Ucluelet and a taxi to an inn on Wickaninnish Bay.

Lismer’s paintings from these trips were filled with the earth force, the vitality that was undeniably his mark. The colours of his palette were more restricted. Green predominated, for he was suuounded by the lush vegetation of the forest and growth was the essence of the life Lismer loved.
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