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Yesterday at the National Gallery I went to look at the re-opened room containing the wall paintings from the MacCallum-Jackman Cottage on West Wind island on Go Home Bay in Georgian Bay, North of Toronto.

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The large Cottage was built in 1911 and Dr. James MacCallum was an ophthalmologist and professor at the University of Toronto. He was also a Member of the Arts and Letters Club. He knew a lot of artists in Toronto and he wanted to commission wall paintings on Canadian subjects. He became friends with artists who would later in 1919 become the members of the Group of Seven, the famous Canadian Landscape artists. Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer and Tom Thomson will work as a team on the various murals. On his death Dr MacCallum bequeathed the paintings to the National Gallery, the new owner of the Cottage Mr and Mrs H.R. Jackman asked A.Y. Jackson in 1953 to paint additional more panels for the Cottage. Today the entire collection stands in a room replicating the Cottage living room at the NGC and can be admired by all. The panels are quite beautiful and represent that period in Canadian History in the first half of the 20th Century when all things were Canadian in theme and spirit, they also show Go Home Bay and the Georgian Bay area for all its natural beauty.

But the story does not end there, the son of the Jackman’s Dr Eric Jackman and Mary and the current owners of the storied cottage commissioned artist Sarah Merry to reproduce the original so they could hang again as panels in the living room of the cottage. It took 15 years to do this project and her work was unveiled in 2013 for the whole community to see. Thus the memory of Dr. MacCallum can be commemorated. For Dr. Jackman, the occasion was also deeply personal. “The cottage is the only permanent home that all my children know,”

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The original painted panels above the chimney in the cottage living room, as they appear now in the NGC on the first floor. Left panel French settlers and missionaries with natives. Right panel hunters. (Click to enlarge)

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Original painted panels decorated the room all around.

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a fisherman and painted panels of luxuriant nature very much in the style of the Group of 7 came to be known.

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the island like all islands in Georgian Bay are rocky outcrops. The two little framed paintings below the large panels are more of the nature in the area painted by the same artists later in the 1920’s.

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this panel was over a window in the cottage which explains the strange shape.

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Again a familiar scene the ferry boat which brought people to the islands and also brought mail and groceries during the Summer months when most people would come up from Toronto with family for their vacation period. What is interesting about these painted panels is how they reproduce life as it was then. The area today has not changed very much and is still very picturesque.

In hindsight this project of Dr. MacCallum is somewhat extravagant when one comes to think about it. Of course the painters, his friends, who painted for him these panels were not famous back then and no one could envisage the fame they would encounter as of 1919 and for the rest of their lives. Icons of modern Canadian Landscape painting. We are very lucky that Dr. MacCallum and the Jackman’s had the forethought to protect these paintings for posterity, from a simple cottage to the National Gallery of Canada.

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