Franklin Carmichael

"We have everything out of which to build ideas and traditions, to fail to make use of them would simply be throwing away a priceless heritage of spirit and material."

(Franklin Carmichael)

Franklin Carmichael apprenticed at the commercial art firm Grip Limited in Toronto in 1911, while studying evenings at the Ontario College of Art and Toronto Technical School. From 1913 to 1914 he studied in Antwerp, Belgium at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts.

On his return, he began painting on weekends with colleagues Tom Thomson, J.E.H MacDonald and Arthur Lismer. Although he also used oil paints, he is noteable among the Group of Seven members for his use of watercolour in depicting the Canadian landscape. During the fall of 1914, he moved into the Studio Building where he shared a space with Thomson over the winter. He was part of the Group from the beginning and exhibited with them consistently from 1920 to 1932.

In 1925, he made his first trip with Group members when he went to the north shore of Lake Superior with Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson. It was Carmichael's first experience in the north and he would return to Lake Superior in 1926 and 1928. He sketched with watercolour on this trip, rather than oil paints. The cloud formations in the watercolour Snow Flurries: North Shore of Lake Superior (1930) contrast with dark blue-green smooth and simplified hill forms. These resemble the rounded forms of Harris' Lake Superior paintings. In the 1930's Carmichael explored themes of industry in northern Ontario, particularly the mining regions and in 1933 he was a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters. In 1932 he left commercial art to become head of the Graphic Design and Commercial Art Department at the Ontario College of Art.

Carmichael produced numerous etchings, linocuts and most importantly, woodengravings over his lifetime. He also worked on book illustrations for Canadian publishers from 1942 until the end of his life.

Photography: M.O. Hammond Collection, National Gallery of Canada Archives