"[Edson had a] very subtle and delightful [sense of colour.]" A.H. Robson

Aaron Allan Edson, having been born in the Eastern Townships, returned there often to find his source of inspiration. Edson was born on December 18, 1846 near Stanbridge East, Quebec; the son of Hiram Edson and Alvira Gilmore. He spent his childhood on the family farm located two miles from Stanbridge East. He moved to the city around 1855, when his parents assumed management of the America House Hotel. In September 1857, Edson enrolled in the new Stanbridge Academy where he took his first drawing courses. His years at Stanbridge were spent mostly around the Pike River area, where he often went to paint his masterpieces. This area was often the subject of his professional paintings, such as The Pike River Near Stanbridge, c. 1864, at the National Gallery of Canada.


While living in Stanbridge, his talents were recognized and encouraged by citizen and important collector John Carpenter Baker.


After moving to Montreal in 1861, Edson took several jobs including working as a clerk at a novelty shop and as a bookkeeper for the art dealer, A.J. Pell, beginning in 1863. Pell gave Edson the opportunity of meeting several Montreal artists. It seems Edson took courses with American painter Robert S. Duncanson while Duncanson was in Montreal. Wanting to perfect his education, Edson left Montreal in 1864, making the first of three trips to Europe. The other trips took place in 1877 and from 1881-86.


Edson lived in Montreal for a major part of his career, returning each year for a stay in the Eastern Townships. It was here in Glen Sutton where he died in May of 1888, after a trip devoted to painting exquisite winter scenes.


Edson was mostly a landscape artist, as talented in oil as he was in watercolour. His landscapes reflect the most important artistic preoccupations of this era. One of the most important of these paintings is Mont Orford and Owl’s Head, Lake Memphrémagog (1870) at the National Gallery of Canada. This painting is of particular interest because of the light and atmospheric effect it achieves. Whereas artists of the previous generation showed landscapes in a subjective manner, Edson's tendency is towards a more objective naturalism, greatly influenced by photography. The precision of details, the use of space by means of a series of flat plains and the perspective effect suggest a photographic connection, while a certain romanticism can be felt in the scenery and subject matter. Edson’s growing interest for light and atmospheric effects is particularly remarkable in works like Autumn on the Yamaska River, Sutton (1872). In the 1880s, the region of Sutton became a favorite subject, and it is here he would later settle.



Translated and copied from the catalogue of the exhibition, L’art des Cantons de l’est / 1800-1950,  Galerie d’art du Centre culturel Université de Sherbrooke, 1980. Pg. 18.

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