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) as well as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1941-67).

Last year, a collection of Lismer’s drawings were discovered within Dalhousie University’s archives by an assistant archivist. According to a story by CBC News, there were 24 folders of pen-and-ink Lismer images totalling at least 29 individual drawings, which were commissioned for the centenary of Dalhousie 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 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 multi-coloured stamp (Scott #518). The stamp, printed by Ashton-Potter, marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Group of Seven with a five-colour lithography of Lismer’s painting. The stamp measures 36 mm by 30 mm and was issued in panes of 50.

According to The Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps, one pane with diagonally shifted horizontal perforations—”now split up”—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 artist 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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