Once upon a time, I was searching art.com for beautiful artwork. I was looking specifically for trees, but the search turned up a lot of landscapes as well. In addition to some amazing things by Van Gogh, Klimt, and other famous artists (famous enough that I had heard of them), I found a number of paintings that I really liked by artists I'd never heard of. In particular, I found three different images of an evergreen that almost looked like they could be the same tree. In order to further my art education, I try to look up artists whose work I like and read more about them. When I did a search for the artists who painted the three similar trees, I read in a Wikipedia article that they worked together, and were part of a group of Canadian landscape painters active in the 1920s called the Group of Seven. I wrote down the names of all the artists in the group (there were actually 10 by the end) and went back to art.com to find paintings by each of them. Guess what? I liked everything I saw by them. Hey, my new favorite painters!
In a fit of admiration, I put a bunch of their stuff on my wall on Facebook, and I wrote about them in a gratitude email to my family. Not long after that, I received a book in the mail all about the Group of Seven, a special gift from my sister. As I was reading the book I thought, some day I want to take a road trip to northern Ontario (it borders Michigan, after all) and see the places these guys painted, and their original artwork in the various museums.
Fast forward to about a week ago, when I started searching for art on etsy.com. I found a landscape that looked very similar to some of the things I'd seen by the Group of Seven. When I looked at the information on the artist, I saw that he lives in northern Ontario. I ended up purchasing something from him, and he sent me an email. I responded with a question: Are you familiar with the work of the Group of Seven? Your things remind me of theirs.
The artist, Brian Holden, wrote me back this great message:
"In answer to your question about being familiar with the Group of Seven...indeed I am. It would be a disservice to both them and yourself to say I have not been influenced by their vision and ways of looking at landscape. I grew up as a child in the immediate area on Lake Superior made famous by Lawren Harris (Pic Island) and also depicted to a lesser degree by Franklin Carmichael and A.Y. Jackson.
"I would have to say my first visit to the McMichael Gallery in Toronto was where I really developed a sense of connection to their landscapes and perhaps subconsciously now these influences and color palettes emerge to some greater or lesser degree in my own work.
"The group visited Algoma region around Sault Ste. Marie more so as a collective, but as individuals several ventured a little more west along Superior towards Thunder Bay, Lawren Harris in particular to the area I grew up and know so well in my life.
"I have a bit of knowledge on the group and can also recommend places to view works and also spots where they actually painted if you are interested."
This email made my day! We exchanged a few more messages, and in the end he gave me a great list of places to visit. One of these days (hopefully this fall), I'm going to hit the road, a bona fide member of the Group of Seven fan club.