ArtworksA.Y. JacksonThe Ice House, Port Coldwell, Lake Superior, 19251882-1974Sold
Inscriptionsinscribed in an unknown hand, ‘A.Y. Jackson’ (verso, centre); typed on McCready Galleries Inc. label ‘The Ice House, Port Coldwell / Lake Superior 1923 / Ex collection Dr. Marius Barbeau’ (verso bottom centre)
Marius Barbeau, Ottawa.
McCready Galleries Inc., Toronto.
The Collection of Mitzi and Mel Dobrin.
Jackson and Harris first painted at Port Coldwell on the north shore of Lake Superior in the fall of 1922 but didn’t return until October 1925. On 7 October Jackson wrote from Port Coldwell to his friend Norah Thomson (later de Pencier), book buyer for the T. Eaton Company: “We are back in our old haunts, and it is pretty good stuff. It is three years since we did any work here and it all looks new. I think we will fill our panels and start home by Oct. 24th.” Here both Jackson and Harris painted the icehouses of the still active fishing port. In one panoramic sketch (sold Heffel Fine Art Auction House, 29 November 2012, lot 209), Jackson painted the village buildings circling the bay from atop a hill. In this ground view, the logs and prow of a boat on the beach lead our eye to the mint green façade of the larger shack and dock, highlighted with touches of lavender against the blues of the water. The vivid orange of the tree on the right is echoed at the left on the lower slopes of the burned-over, rocky hill that Jackson painted with deep mauves, crowned by the green tinted golds of the scrub brush in all its autumn glory. Above, the clouds echo the creams and off-whites of the foreground beach.
The humanity and sensitivity to local colour seen in Jackson’s sketch contrast with the abstracted landscapes of Harris’ sketches of the same subject. Autumn yellows and oranges, the patterning of the foliage on the rocky hills and striated clouds appear in Harris’ Lake Superior Sketch XXIV which was probably painted in front of the subject. (reproduced in Jeremy Adamson’s Lawren S. Harris Urban Scenes and Wilderness Landscapes 1906-1930 (Art Gallery of Ontario 1978) p. 130, no. 108) However in a separate sketch in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (fig. 1), identical to the final canvas in the Art Gallery of Hamilton, save for dimensions, and which was probably painted in his Toronto studio, Harris eliminated the local colour, simplifying the forms of the hills, beach and clouds. The hills became green cones without reference to the Coldwell topography and the sculpted clouds echo the stylized beach that is devoid of any detritus or hint of human habitation or industry. Working in close proximity the two artists produced radically different images.
Charles C. Hill
A.Y. Jackson’s letters to Florence Clement are in the Naomi Jackson Groves fonds (MG30 D351) and to Norah de Pencier in the Norah de Pencier fonds (MG30 D322), both at Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa10of 22