ALFRED JOSEPH CASSON, O.S.A., P.R.C.A.
THUNDERHEADS, LAKE MAZINAW, 1952
11.5 ins x 15.25 ins; 29.2 cms x 38.7 cms
A.J. Casson (1898-1992) first learned watercolour painting under the private tutelage of Harry Britton in Toronto from 1916-18. He also benefitted from working as an apprentice to Franklin Carmichael at the commercial firm of Rous and Mann from 1919-26. Among the members of the Group of Seven, Carmichael was known for his watercolours; he felt that the medium was equally suited to depicting the Canadian landscape as oil painting. In 1925, along with Carmichael and F.H. Brigden, Casson was a founding member of the Canadian Society for Painters in Water Colour (CSPWC), whose purpose was to promote the art of watercolour painting in Canada. Casson would continue to work in both watercolour and oil throughout his long career.
In Thunderheads, Lake Mazinaw, Casson demonstrates his mastery of this difficult medium. He roughly sketches in the composition with pencil, reducing the landscape to simple forms, then applies washes of greens and blues. The horizontal land mass provides a solid foundation for the billowing cumulus clouds which rise above (giving the work its title) to fill the upper two-thirds of the composition. It is in the handling of the cloud forms that Casson gave free expression to the abstracting tendencies which first appeared in his work in the late 1940s. This was his response to the interest in abstraction that prevailed in Toronto after World War II. Casson never embraced pure abstraction by abandoning the subject entirely, but found patterns in the landscape with which to create a well-structured image.
Mazinaw Lake, part of which is contained within Bon Echo Provincial Park, is located in eastern Ontario, south-west of Ottawa. Casson would have painted Thunderheads during his summer vacation, when he had time to travel greater distances from Toronto in search of subject matter.
Private Collection, Toronto