Group of Seven Experience Route: Northeastern Ontario
The Group of Seven artists visited Northeastern Ontario for many years, as artists and as graphic designers. They travelled the rails to capture scenes of the hauntingly beautiful wilderness and commercial activity of the area. This included the resource-based industries dotting the landscapes as illustrated in Franklin Carmichael’s painting The Nickel Belt, c. 1928 in the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art at the Ottawa Art Gallery (currently on loan).
Note: Permanent collections are selections of art owned by the gallery and not the complete scope of the artists' collection.
Chart a Course on the Group of Seven Experience Route in Northeastern Ontario
The Group of Seven Experience Route in Northeastern Ontario is varied with several possible itinerary combinations, but here are some of the key stops that we recommend along the way to give you a taste of what the region has to offer.
Key Stops, Attractions and Landscapes on the Group of Seven Experience Route (Parry Sound/Killarney)
1. Tom Thomson Artists Stations
Take in the views that inspired the artists, from land and water. There are two artists’ stations along the Rotary Algonquin Fitness Trail that overlook views painted by Tom Thomson on his July 1914 travels by canoe from Dr. MacCallum’s cottage at Go Home Bay.
Location: Parry Sound
Connect to the canvas: though the Group of Seven formed after Thomson’s death, they all captured changing light, water and wind conditions in small outdoor paintings and sketches. This is demonstrated in F.H. Varley’s Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay, c. 1921, National Gallery of Canada.
Open year-round, this area so captivated the Group of Seven’s A.Y. Jackson, Franklin Carmichael and A.J. Casson that they petitioned the government to designate it as a protected park.
Art in the Park is a program designed to keep the artistic legacy alive with workshops and events in Killarney Provincial Park.
Join a landscape photography workshop or sign up for art lessons from artists in the Friends of Killarney’s Artist Residence Program. Pick up a free artist material lending kit at the Visitor Centre to create your own masterpiece, and take note of the annual Art Show and Sale.
Hike to A.Y. Jackson Lake via the Cranberry Bog Trail from the George Lake Campground for a glimpse of the stunning vistas of forest and lakes. The La Cloche Silhouette Trail is an advanced multi-day hiking option, named after a 1930’s painting Franklin Carmichael sketched from a trail vantage point. Look to Killarney Outfitters to plan one of their Group of Seven Canoe Routes.
Location: 960 ON-637, Killarney
Connect to the canvas: Franklin Carmichael’s In the La Cloche Hills, c. 1929 is on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario, while La Cloche no. 2, c. 1931 can be viewed virtually from the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound.
Key Stops, Attractions and Landscapes on the Group of Seven Experience Route (Sudbury)
Casson, Carmichael, Jackson, Lismer and MacDonald were all inspired by the La Cloche region’s rolling landscapes, and the tradition continues at the annual art show. The exhibition has free admission, so plan on visiting July 2 thru to July 9th, from 11 am until 5 pm. While you are there, consider hiking up Willisville Mountain to view some of the scenic views that drew the Group of Seven to this area.
A.J. Casson painted local scenes during his stay at Widgawe Lodge, just outside Willisville, with a lake named in his honour. Paddle the route A.Y. Jackson took to Grace Lake, explore the La Cloche mountains and immerse yourself in this inspiring landscape. You can even stay in the same cottage once occupied by A.J. Casson. With over 70 painting sites in the La Cloche Hills, the beauty of this area is sure to amaze you.
Guided tours are available but advance bookings are required, give them a call at 1-800-562-9992.
Connect to the canvas: Casson Lake, c. 1976 by A.J. Casson is on display at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
The gallery’s permanent collection includes works by Tom Thomson and the original Group of Seven members, including Franklin Carmichael, Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson, and Frederick Varley.
Location: 251 John Street, Sudbury
Connect to the canvas: Franklin Carmichael’s painting, Lake Wabagishik, c. 1928, was inspired by the Sudbury region and is currently on display at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
In the spring of 1953, A.Y. Jackson visited the Onaping River to sketch and paint. One of these pieces was displayed at Sudbury Secondary School until 1974, when it mysteriously disappeared.
Approximately a half-hour’s drive northwest on Highway 144 from Sudbury towards Dowling, you’ll arrive at the turn-off for A.Y. Jackson Lookout. A popular spot for photographers, an accessible trail leads to the stunning High Falls that plunges 55 metres in one beautiful cascade into the Sudbury basin. This one-kilometre riverside trail leads to a bridge that spans the top of the falls. Continue walking this trail for a further two kilometres to enjoy the silent forest.
Location: Onaping Falls, ON-144, Greater Sudbury
Key Stops, Attractions and Landscapes (Temiskaming/Cobalt)
The collection features works by contemporaries of the Group of Seven, including George Pepper. Each summer, the gallery hosts the Annual Juried Exhibition, an event Group of Seven members participated in as jurors in their time.
Location: 325 Farr Drive, Temiskaming
This driving tour encompasses site, attractions and event around the lake. The beauty of this area was captured by the Group of Seven and the landscapes they captured are key components of this route. New signage telling the story of the group in this area are located on the route.
Carmichael, Jackson and Lismer depicted views of resource extraction and scenes of villages and towns in and around Cobalt, a Parks Canada National Historic Mining District. Heritage sites include the Cobalt Townsite Mine, the Cobalt Mining Museum, the Heritage Silver Trail and the Welcome Centre in the Trail Station on Cobalt Lake’s shores.
Connect to the canvas: Jackson’s Cobalt, c. 1932, National Gallery of Canada depicts industry activity near freestanding homes throughout the town.
Key Stops, Attractions and Landscapes on the Group of Seven Experience Route (Manitoulin Island/Owen Sound)
Dedicated to the innovative and artistic spirit of Tom Thomson, the gallery features some of his work as well as contemporary art, including a beautiful Indigenous collection. Thomson grew up and married in Owen Sound and this gallery is home to a nationally significant collection of his works.
Location: 840 1st Avenue West, Owen Sound
Dedicated to the innovative and artistic spirit of Tom Thomson, the gallery features some of his work as well as contemporary art, including a beautiful Indigenous collection. Stretch your legs along the Tom Thomson Trail that connects Owen Sound to the Georgian Trail in Meaford, and pass by the Pioneer Cemetery at the Leith Church where Tom Thomson is buried.
Location: Owen Sound
12. Perivale Gallery
Visit this carefully-curated art attraction, set among the pines and overlooking the shimmering waters of Lake Kagawong. Each summer, they host ‘In the Spirit of Tom Thomson and The Group of Seven,’ an exhibit of work inspired by Canada’s beloved artists. Join them for this exhibit and sale July 23 to August 7, 2022.
Tips and Resources
- Get your copy of Jim and Sue Waddington’s book “In the Footsteps of the Group of Seven” from the Art Gallery of Sudbury.
- Add the album “Walking in the Footsteps” by Canadian singer/songwriter and Juno award winner Ian Tamblyn to your playlist. CDs are sold at the Art Gallery of Sudbury.
- Parkbus provides day and overnight trips to and from Toronto and Ottawa, Algonquin Park, Killarney Park, Georgian Bay and Tobermory.
- Some of these stops are seasonal, book ahead and double-check operating hours and dates to avoid disappointment.
Last updated: July 22, 2022