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Canadian History for Kids: Alexander Young Jackson

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One and Canadian History for Kids have assembled 31 remarkable stories about incredible people, places and events which helped shape our amazing nation.

A grateful nation never forgets a hero.

There are many significant stories to be told about the ‘war to end all wars’.

During World War 1, Alexander Young Jackson, the Canadian artist and founding member of the Group of Seven was also an official war artist.

In 1915, he enlisted in the Canadian Army with the 60th battalion. In 1916 he ended up in the trenches just outside Ypres. He was shot in the hip and shoulder at the Battle of Sanctuary Wood and was taken to a hospital in France. He was then sent to Britain to recover from his wounds.

Once he recovered from his injuries he was back on the front lines outside Ypres, at the muddy Battle of Passchendaele. During this time, Lord Beaverbrook, a Canadian business and newspaper baron, wanted a historical record of the Canadian contribution to the war. Using his own money, Lord Beaverbrook established the Canadian War Records Office. Jackson was approached and became one of the first of 120 artists to be hired by Lord Beaverbrook and the War Records Office to capture World War I. He would paint more pictures that any other artist.

From 1917 to 1919 Jackson worked for the Canadian War Memorials as an official war artist.

His paintings were of landscapes, just as he painting before the war, but now the places were haunting with ruins of villages and farm houses. His painting, Gas Attack Liévin, is at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, as well as his most haunting wartime painting, A Copse, evening.

Two other future members of the Group of Seven, Fred Varley and Arthur Lismer, also worked for the Canadian War Records Office. Lismer was painting in Halifax, capturing war ships returning home to Canada. Jackson jointed Lismer in Halifax in 1919 to paint the last days.

Once the war was over Jackson returned to Toronto and along with six other colleagues formed the Group of Seven. He would paint with the Group until 1933.

In 1925 he taught at the Ontario College of Art and in 1933 he helped form the Canadian Group of Painters with several members of the Group of Seven, including A.J. Casson, Arthur Lismer and Franklin Carmichael.

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