Discovering Huntsville Murals: Honouring Group of Seven
I’ve been a fan of the Group of Seven’s art for as long as I can remember. And when I found out about the Huntsville murals that honour them, I knew I had to visit! Huntsville is located in the heart of Ontario, Canada’s Muskoka region. Muskoka is a wild region a couple of hours north of Toronto. Known as cottage country, its home to endless lakes, charming small towns, and a wealth of natural beauty.
Who Are the Group of Seven?
The Group of Seven were a gathering of artists who all met while working in Toronto. They ended up going on various trips together, around Ontario, to paint. But it was Tom Thomson who inspired them to push further into Ontario’s wilds and push their art. And it all began in 1912 after Tom returned from a painting excursion to Algonquin Park. They were all stimulated by his work and the grand Ontario landscapes. They joined him the following summer.
During WWI the group dispersed across the globe. Tom Thomson was ineligible to go to war and so, spent most of his time in Algonquin Park. Tom was not only a remarkable artist but also a great outdoorsman. But sadly, in the summer of 1917, he drowned unexpectedly in the Park.
But they weren’t known as the Group of Seven until after the war when they reunited in Toronto. It was at this time they formed the Group of Seven. They spread out across Canada to paint the country’s vast and striking wilderness.
Strangely though, because of his death, Tom Thomson was never really one of the Group of Seven. Though his name is always linked to them, thanks to his initial trips that inspired them. Though called the Group of Seven, the group was made up of 10 men. A.J. Casson, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Frank Johnston, Lawren Harris, Frederick Varley, along with Franklin Carmicheal, J.E.H. MacDonald, L.L. Fitzgerald, and Edwin Holgate. They were later renamed the Canadian Group of Painters.
Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery
The Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery was created in 1997 by artist, Gerry Lantaigne. Gerry was inspired to create the outdoor gallery after a local business owner in Huntsville asked him to paint one of Tom Thomson’s pieces on the side of his store.
The Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery is a trail featuring nearly 100 murals that replicate the group’s art and is spread across Muskoka. Along with the over 30 Huntsville murals, you can find more in Algonquin Park, Baysville, and a few other places. Most of these pieces are huge, stretching across building fronts, and down alleyways. And going on the hunt for them is a great way to explore the charming small towns that they are found in.
On the Hunt for the Huntsville Murals
I hadn’t been to Huntsville in years. But with my love for all things street art, Group of Seven, and exploring charming Ontario small towns I was thrilled to return. On a crisp fall day, and the wind pushing me along, I started my hunt for the Huntsville Murals at the Seven Main Café. Here I warmed up with a plate full of fluffy waffles with juicy strawberries and a steaming cup of toffee apple tea latte.
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I strolled along Huntsville’s Main Street, full of quaint shops as well as restaurants and cafes with fun names. Everywhere I looked I could spot murals. Many are found along the Main Street, while others are down alleyways and behind the downtown shops. The majority of the Huntsville murals are within walking distance of each other. You can also find murals in the lobby of the Canada Summit Centre, on the exterior walls of the Huntsville High School, and at the Muskoka Heritage Place.
Most of the murals are huge. And they’re not only grand in size but in their ability to capture the great Canadian wilderness. Each artist has their own style, preference to colours, and will have you asking yourself, where was this taken? Motivating you to see these sweeping landscapes that inspired the Huntsville murals with your own eyes.
Huntsville has a strong fondness for Tom Thomson. He inspired his fellow Group of Seven artists to explore the region around Huntsville and continues to pull people through his art. In downtown Huntsville, out front of the theatre, you’ll even find a statue of Tom Thomson in all his glory. Sitting atop a stump with paintbrush in hand and to his side, his trusty canoe.
You can easily spend the day exploring Huntsville’s downtown shops and cafes and hunting for all the Group of Seven inspired murals.
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