OTD: Isle of Spruce painter dies in Toronto

On today’s date in 1969, Group of Seven artist Arthur Lismer died in Montréal at the age of 84.

One of the founders of the Group of Seven, Lismer had a significant impact on the arts, including art education, in Canada. Throughout more than 50 years of painting, he developed a powerful expressionist style characterized by simplicity in raw colours, heavy impasto, coarse brushwork and compressed forms.

His teaching experience included stints as vice-principal of the Ontario College of Art (1919-27) and director of education at the Art Gallery of Toronto (1927-38) and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1941-67).

A collection of Lismer’s drawings were discovered in 2017 by an assistant archivist working at Dalhousie University’s archives. The archivist found 24 folders of pen-and-ink images totalling about 30 individual drawings, according to a report by CBC News, which added the works were commissioned for Dalhousie’s centenary in 1919.

“I haven’t stumbled upon anything this interesting, certainly,” archives assistant Jennifer Lambert told CBC News. “It’s not often that we just stumble across things because a lot of collection is processed.”

Upon his death in 1969, Lismer was buried alongside other members of the Group of Seven on the grounds of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

An official first-day cover was also issued on Sept. 18, 1970.

1970 LISMER STAMP

In 1970, Canada’s Post Office Department (now Canada Post) featured Lismer’s Isle of Spruce painting on a six-cent stamp (Scott #518).

Printed by Ashton-Potter, the stamp marked the 50th anniversary of the Group of Seven’s founding with a five-colour lithography of Lismer’s painting. The stamp measures 36 millimetres by 30 millimetres and was issued in panes of 50.

The Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps reports one pane with diagonally shifted horizontal perforations resulted in “a couple of stamps” with nearly missing inscriptions and a wide white margin at the bottom.

The catalogue also lists one variety – the “fire in bush” variety (SC #518i) – which is valued at $5  (Never Hinged to Very Fine) compared to 30 cents for the regular stamp in the same condition.

An official first-day cover describes the Canadian art group as having “defied the painting style of the time, the opinions of the critics, and the comforts of civilization to go out into the wilderness and paint the country ‘as it is’ … big, raw and sometimes stark, but majestically beautiful.”

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