Jeff Green | Aug 26, 2010
Jim and Sue Waddington pose where A..J. Casson painted one of the many works he made of Bon Echo Park
Art enthusiasts John and Sue Waddington have been following in the footsteps of Canada's most renowned landscape painters, The Group of Seven, for 30 years and on August 16 their travels landed them in Bon Echo Provincial Park. This was the couple's first ever visit to the park and its purpose was two-fold - firstly, to accept an invitation by Derek Maggs, Chair of the Friends of Bon Echo, who had invited the couple to present their power point presentation of “Following in the Footsteps of the Group of Seven”. The show is currently on display at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, ON until September 6, 2010 and it follows the couple as they have hiked, paddled and portaged their way through the Canadian wilderness, tracking down and photographing the actual views from which various well-known works by members of the Group of Seven were painted.
The presentation at Bon Echo included an overview of the various methods the couple uses to locate the views which often begins in the winter months with a search through the National Archives for paintings and sketches, the scouring of various land and contour maps, and the reading of countless books and letters written by and about the group, which often contain hints as to where the particular views are located. The hunt then begins in the summer where, armed with their findings, the couple pack up their supplies and head out into the wilderness.
Monday's presentation included the couple's first discovery in 1972 of the exact location from which A.Y. Jackson's Hills, Killarney, Ontario (Nellie Lake), was painted in 1933, over 75 years ago. The discovery came about when Sue, a long time rug hooker wanted to create a rug based on that particular painting. She and Jim, accompanied by their two young children, set out on a week-long excursion to the Killarney Park Lake, which Jim recalled “was a very hard lake to get to”, in the hopes of finding that one particular view. Funnily enough it was somewhat by chance on a family blueberry picking expedition that took them higher into the Killarney hills than they had intended, that Sue came upon the exact location. Finding the view was the couple’s first “eureka moment”, and since then they have located 200 more.
The presentation included many of their finds since then including Tom Thomson's, St Thomas Church, c. 1905, A.J. Casson's A Little Bay in La Cloche Channel, c.1958, A.Y. Jackson's Grace Lake, Algoma, c.1939 as well as works by Arthur Lismer like Bright Land, c.1938 and Little Lake, Bay Finn. c. 1932 and Twisted Pine, c.1935 and Mirror Lake, c.1929 by Franklin Carmichael.
The part of the presentation that solicited the loudest “ooh” and “aah” responses from viewers came repeatedly whenever the slide of a particular painting was juxtaposed beside one of the Waddingtons' stunning photographs, which in many cases, was an almost perfect match.
The second part of the Waddingtons’ visit to Bon Echo began the following day when they set out first by canoe and later on foot armed with 20 photos of 12 works painted by Group members at Bon Echo. When I met them the following day their expressions were triumphant and they informed me that Monday's findings represented “the most successful day we have ever had in our history of searching”. Of the 12 photographed works they brought, they had successfully located six. They shared one of the locations with me, and I followed them to the tip of a spit that juts out into Mazinaw Lake from where A.J Casson painted Bon Echo. They also found Arthur Lismer's, The Sheep's Nose, which depicts a part of the rock face now commonly known in the park as Turtle Rock.
They also located a second Lismer work depicting an old dock and canoers by discovering the remnants of the dock, from which they were able to locate the scenery behind. Most of the works they found were by A.J. Casson, which were painted further down the bay and which they located by canoe.
Jim said the work they do is like solving a puzzle. “Each one is different kind of puzzle and when the place is not mentioned in the title of the work as was the case with Bent Pine by A. Y. Jackson, we are then forced to find clues in other ways and it can be very exciting.” Sue added, 'When we find one of the views we have no trouble understanding why the painters painted them. And you have to keep in mind that the ones we tend to find are the magnificent and more obvious ones.”
The Waddingtons were greatly impressed with the beauty of Bon Echo and were thrilled to come across an artist painting the famed rock face, proving that the Bon Echo landscape still continues to inspire artists today with its magnificence and awe-inspiring views.
The Waddingtons will be presenting their latest finds at Bon Echo to the pubic at the Friends of Bon Echo annual AGM that will take place in the fall of 2011.
Next, they will be heading back to Killarney Park in October to locate a painting by A. J. Casson called Trout Lake.
To view their presentation online please visit www.groupofseven.ca