Ernest Lawson

“Colour should be used to depict the three major emotions in a man's life – anticipation, realization and retrospection.”
– Ernest Lawson

Known primarily for his impastoed landscapes, Ernest Lawson’s art falls between Impressionism and Realism. He was a founding member of the Ashcan School (also known as “The Eight”), which was known for its realistic scenes of everyday life and one of the organizers of the 1913 Armory Show in New York. A. Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven called Lawson one of the founders of modern Canadian art.

Lawson worked as a textile designer while studying at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1888, and then at the Art Students League in New York in 1891, where he was taught by the Impressionist painter John Twachtman, whose summer school he attended in Connecticut. In 1893, Lawson moved to France where he enrolled at the Académie Julian. It was in Paris where Lawson met the Impressionist landscape painter Alfred Sisley who would have a lasting influence on his work. After his return to America, he exhibited in 1908 with the Ashcan School. Less committed to social realism than his peers, his works are more remarkable for their treatment of colour and light than their social relevance (Snowbound Boats, c. 1907).

Two of Lawson’s paintings were shown at the Paris Salon of 1894. He won a silver medal at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis in 1904, as well as the Corcoran Art Prize in Washington, DC in 1916. His first Canadian exhibition took place in 1919 at the Nova Scotia Museum of Fine Arts. By 1926, Lawson had returned to his roots and was teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute. His work has been posthumously featured in a number of group exhibitions at the Smithsonian, Fondation de l’Hermitage and the Petit Palais in Paris. His works were also the subject of the retrospective, “Ernest Lawson: 1873–1939” presented at the National Gallery of Canada in 1967.