Defiant Spirits

Defiant Spirits

The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven

Book - 2011 | 1st paperback ed
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"Beginning in 1912, Defiant Spirits traces the artistic development of Tom Thomson and the future members of the Group of Seven, Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, and Frederick Varley, over a dozen years in Canadian history. Working in an eclectic and sometimes controversial blend of modernist styles, they produced what an English critic celebrated in the 1920s as the 'most vital group of paintings' of the 20th century. Inspired by Cézanne, Van Gogh and other modernist artists, they tried to interpret the Ontario landscape in light of the strategies of the international avant-garde. Based after 1914 in the purpose-built Studio Building for Canadian Art, the young artists embarked on what Lawren Harris called 'an all-engrossing adventure': travelling north into the Canadian Shield and forging a style of painting appropriate to what they regarded as the unique features of Canada's northern landscape.
Sumptuously illustrated, rigorously researched and drawn from archival documents and letters, Defiant Spirits constitutes a 'group biography,' reconstructing the men's aspirations, frustrations and achievements. It details not only the lives of Tom Thomson and the members of the Group of Seven but also the political and social history of Canada during a time when art exhibitions were venues for debates about Canadian national identity and cultural worth."
Publisher: Vancouver : Douglas & Mcintyre, 2011
Edition: 1st paperback ed
ISBN: 9781553658825
Call Number: 759.11 G8825k 2011
Characteristics: xii, 492 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 23 cm


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Aug 02, 2016

An interesting read, although there could have been more pictures. It was a little frustrating to read King's descriptions of some of the paintings that weren't shown in the book.

Marlowe Jan 08, 2016

I've never been much for the Group of Seven, until I read Defiant Spirits. I know have a true appreciation for the work and values of these painters - how they were trying to paint Canada. While sometimes considered derivative, I believe Ross beautifully lays out the experimental and challenging work the Group were trying to accomplish, along with telling the fascinating tale of Tom Thompson, and explaining Emily Carr's link to the Group. A great read for art lovers, even more so for Canadian art lovers. Ross has a great way of making you feel connected to the work and world of the artists.

I've read two other books by King that I liked, but this is disappointing. My master's thesis was on the earlier Algoma trips (up to 1918) taken by future members of the Group, and it remains the most extensive study of those journeys and the images produced on them. Consequently, this is a period and a subject I know very well, and King's approach, though not the kind of overt hagiography produced in the past, is neither scholarly nor critical. In fact, much of it strikes me as naive or disingenuous. For instance, he pays little attention to the question of the kind of patrons Harris, MacDonald, etc. were trying to attract or the image of unlimited resources they strove to create. Further, he seems relatively untroubled by the Anglo-
Canadian bias of their work or the racist connotations of emphasizing the nation's "northern purity". His failure to mention my research is one indication of the superficiality of Defiant Spirits. Even more telling, however, is his neglect of Leslie Dawn's National Visions, National Blindness: the best study of Canadian art in the 1920s which was the decade when the Group's was formed and rose to fame.

Oct 30, 2011

started,too technical.....not in the mood to read a lot of factual commentary....lots of quotation marks,,,,,never read book

Jul 15, 2011

There must be something in the air with this book and the book on Tom Thompson (Northern Light) coming out in the same year. I think this is the better written of the two.

debwalker Jan 26, 2011

Finalist in the Charles Taylor 2011 award shortlist.


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