ALFRED JOSEPH CASSON, O.S.A., P.R.C.A.
WAKEFIELD, QUE., 1951
oil on canvas board
signed; also signed, titled and dated on the reverse
9.5 ins x 11.25 ins; 24.1 cms x 28.6 cms
Like fellow members of the Group of Seven, A.J. Casson (1898-1992) travelled the countryside in search of subject matter. Although he participated in exhibitions of the major art societies of his day, Casson did not become a full-time artist until after his retirement from the commercial art world in 1958. It has been suggested by Colin S. MacDonald that Casson’s attention to the pronounced design aspect in his paintings may have arisen from his involvement with the National Gallery’s project for silkscreen reproductions of Canadian paintings during and after World War II. This may have been the case, but Casson had always been concerned with the formal qualities of his compositions.
This sketch is characteristic of Casson’s work of the period. Wakefield is a village located north-west of Ottawa on the western shore of the Gatineau River in the province of Quebec. He was able to travel further from his Toronto home only during holidays due to the constraints of full-time employment. In this sketch, Casson has rendered the sky and hills that rise up behind the village as simplified patterns. Ominous dark clouds hover over the landscape like heavy iron plates, under which stylized white clouds appear to claw at the top of the hills. The hills are also reduced to a pattern of curved brushstrokes that represent sunlit trees cascading downwards. Casson typically chose views with evidence of a human presence, such as the simplified buildings that nestle against the hills. While many of his contemporaries focused on wilderness scenes, Casson painted rural villages in the 1920s to establish a distinctive identity within the Group of Seven.
Private Collection, Toronto