Saturday, June 12, 2010

Adventuring through the Muskokas

An iconic group, friends by chance in the early 1900s, eventually these men became a historical artistic focus for having created some of the best Canadian geographically inspired and well known impressionistic paintings.

Flashing names; some think the "Group of Seven" included "Tom Thomson", and some even also include "Emily Carr" into the numbered bunch.

The latter two were not part of that formally named group;
Tom Thomson was closely associated, and Emily Carr, was merely influenced by the his style of painting, a small tidbit of historical trivia to be sure.

Last weekend our family enjoyed a "family day" where the focal point of was a road trip to the Muskokas.

Cell phones were turned off, watches tossed aside, we were on "our time" and no one else's.
We told our children;
"We'll eat when we are hungry, and go home when we are all done, that is - when we feel like actually going home".
There was going to be absolutely no hurry to our day, all were in dire need of distraction for our upcoming week's serious issues ahead.

With only one stop along the way for a pit stop and coffee stock-up, the day began to get more glorious as time ticked by.

Sunshine blared through threatening clouds, and rain became a distant concern.

Beautiful for adventuring, it turned out to be the perfect day, for whatever it would hold for us by its clearly unknown end.

Clearly freedom reigned without time borders, as we plummeted in search of yet - another geographical adventure.

Three towns to explore along our way were;

Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Huntsville.
Of interest was following possible footsteps of artists Tom Thomson and The Group of Seven, those who were inspired to use their artistic talents to paint these wilderness areas of Canada.

A self taught man, Tom Thomson was actually a graphic designer before he became inspired to become a guide in the Algonquin Mountains, and become one of the most famous Canadian painters of all time for his rendition of "impressionism".

The Group of Seven were formed later after Thomson's mysterious death when he didn't return from a canoe trip. A blow to the head was found to be the cause of his death, perhaps an accident or not?

The mystery of it all still reigns in the particular areas where he is well known, in painter's circles and in history books.

Speculations abound for how he died, body was retrieved and a post mortem carried out. Still though, there is much unresolved to this day.

The town of Huntsville
is just over two hours north of Toronto.

Known as
"cottage country", anchored on the rugged Canadian Shield and a major gateway into the world renowned Algonquin Park.

Huntsville will also be home to the
2010 G 8 Summit of world leaders. We thought we'd visit before we weren't able, with security growing tighter by the week as the countdown to this size-able event continues.

The first thing we noticed when in the central downtown area of Huntsville was the statue dedicated in honor of Tom Thomson, a figure sitting and observing visual distances before him, an overturned canoe nearby, and painting in progress.


One can't possibly view this scene and not ponder more about his life.

Reminders of the Muskokas are visible everywhere, small towns in the mountainous regions known to have many resorts and cottages in full swing in summer, Adirondack chairs visible everywhere in town, and around the many lakes comprising the areas waterways for outdoor adventures still partaken in today.

The roads north to the areas of choice this day all seemed to remind us of B.C. in many ways, our former home; trees of fir, cedar and pine lined the roads, rocky geographic landscape formations flickered by us in our peripherals as we continued to climb upward.

It felt a long way from civilization along those highways, and chances for wildlife sightings were hopeful, though none were seen.

Once we arrived in Huntsville, my husband and son quickly recalled the three ice hockey games played here last year, right after we moved to our new home, and they had no clue how to get here.

It was winter, the roads slick with ice and landscape offering only white mounds of fresh snow.

Little was visible at times during two of those trips due to sudden snow squalls whipping up, and dropped messages from our GPS's computer womanly voice that kept announcing;


This vastly different seasonal time of year definitely provided a different sort of scenery and views not noticed before.

Eager to explore the town area, everyone decided we should park and just stroll around at our leisure to experience what it had to offer.

Setting out on foot, we first decided to head to the water's edge where many people were gathered for a fishing derby.

Small rental boating vessels were located in the main waterway and small alcoves nearby.

So many kayaks.

So many canoes, preferred modes of transportation in this exact spot at times by Tom Thomson.

Water smooth like glass.

Blue skies and white fluffy clouds.

Tranquil and gorgeous are two words one could use to describe the scene before us.

Next up, back to the main drag filled with quaint shops and stops for all to browse for a time, that is until things began to close earlier than we anticipated, around 4pm.

Slowly, we began to notice how many colorful art murals were dotted on the town's buildings.

One small shopkeeper explained about them and gave us a map so we could hunt around for all of them, so many, about 75 in all, and more currently in progress.

Were they originals? No.

Influences were great from Tom Thomson and the eventual group formed identifying themselves as "The Group of Seven", though not formally named so until after the death of Mr. Thomson in 1917.

Strongly influenced by the European Impressionists of the late nineteenth century, those from Montmontre and Paris, this group all became famous for being the "Canadian landscape painters" of the 1920s.

Some equate Tom Thomson's work to those of Van Gogh and Cezanne, and rightly so.
His best creative period was during the years of 1914-1917.

His works of art during this time period are revered long after his death.

He was a direct influence of Emily Carr, another very famous Canadian painter.

Together they traveled throughout Ontario, particularly through the Muskokas and the Algona regions, sketching the rugged landscape and developing techniques using wide brush strokes and others, to represent their art.

The group received some funding towards their work, and met often to discuss their goals and geographical travel desires.

Disbanding for a time after the untimely death of Tom Thomson and during World War 1 , the original seven regrouped together when the war ended, formally naming themselves
"The Group of Seven".

By 1920, these seven artists introduced the world to their work in their first exhibition.
Prior to their work, many believed the Canadian landscape not worthy of being painted, or not accessible for that option.

They obviously proved all were wrong.

The following year, one of the painters left the group, another replaced him and all continued their work as before, only they began to travel throughout Canada in wilderness regions of British Columbia, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.

These artists were the first European descendants to depict the Arctic.

By 1931 and now with ten members, the group disbanded and became known as the
"Canadian Artists", known far and wide for their pioneer efforts.

The rest as they say - is history. Welcome to Huntsville then, the place where there is adventures in the ART of LIVING.

A local group have continued the legacy by featuring the "Group of Seven's Outdoor Murals" for tourists, passersby, or local residents.

Replicated by modern day artists, framed murals are located around town for all to pay homage to honor these famous painters and the celebration of their work from these parts of the country.

We happened upon these, and off we went in search of as many as we might discover lingering nearby.

My husband, an artist himself has always had a fond affection for Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven's artwork and has attempted to mimic their
"style" in the past.

Being a person who can appreciate the rugged wilderness of this country, he appreciates the color bringing alive the true landscape he has viewed and witnessed as he too has traveled through parts of our country where no man has gone before on foot.

He wanted to be sure I captured as many of the murals too, but with my camera in hand and eagle eyes by all to find them in the first place.

The map we were given helped.
Our adventurous spirit allowed for the perfect time together, especially when someone declared;

"There's another mural!".

"Scored again!"

....part two coming....