New Publication – Water in the Wilderness: The Group of Seven and the Coastal Identity of Lake Superior

A very brief excerpt from my paper, “Water in the Wilderness: The Group of Seven and the Coastal Identity of Lake Superior,” Journal of Canadian Studies 55, no.3 (2021): 590-620. DOI: 10.3138/jcs-2020-0049:

“Wilderness is often regarded as a “northern” experience. It suggests rugged hinterlands, going off the beaten track, and being removed from civilization. It is often marked as the difference between the polar and equatorial latitudes, and regularly denotes a human conception of place. “Today … wilderness is understood as a source of power,” wrote Arthur Lismer in 1933 (quoted in Nasgaard 1984, 198). In fact, by the turn of the twentieth century, wilderness had already been modified into something traversed by trains and roads, reached by canoe, and part of touristic experience, displacing Indigenous nations in their path. In painting the north shore of Lake Superior, the Group of Seven elucidated their idea of north, actively distancing themselves from the United States and instead created a visual narrative predicated on mysticism, spirituality, virility, and wilderness. Today, the importance of wilderness extends more accurately to terrestrial and marine concerns, notably shipping, fisheries, habitat and forest preservation, freshwater contamination, and Indigenous land rights. With this, the Group’s paintings of Lake Superior often conform to a tidy and linear divide between land and lake; they do not instinctively associate themselves with the ecological, geological, and cultural history of the region…”

Full paper available here or just drop me an email if you don’t have access.

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