Arthur Lismer

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Arthur Lismer
Arthur Lismer.jpg
Arthur Lismer, 1930
Born(1885-06-27)27 June 1885
Died23 March 1969(1969-03-23) (aged 83)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
NationalityBritish and Canadian
Known forPainter
AwardsOrder of Canada

Arthur Lismer, CC RCA (27 June 1885 – 23 March 1969) was an English-Canadian painter, member of the Group of Seven and educator. He is known for his paintings of ships in dazzle camouflage.

Early life[edit]

Lismer was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, the son of Harriet and Edward Lismer, a draper's buyer.[1] At age thirteen, he apprenticed at a photo-engraving company. He was awarded a scholarship, and used this time to take evening classes at the Sheffield School of Art from 1898 until 1905. In 1905, he moved to Antwerp, Belgium, where he studied art at the Academie Royale.

Lismer immigrated to Canada in 1911, settled in Toronto, Ontario, and took a job with Grip Ltd.

Lismer's brother, Ted, remained in Sheffield and became a notable trade unionist and communist activist.[2]

President of NSCAD University[edit]

From 1916 to 1919 Lismer served as the President of the Victoria College of Art in Nova Scotia (now NSCAD University).

Official war artist[edit]

In wartime Halifax, Lismer was inspired by the shipping and naval activity of the port, notably the dramatically painted dazzle camouflaged ships with their patterns of curved and zigzag lines designed to mislead German U-boats and submarines. Lismer`s work came to the attention of Lord Beaverbrook who arranged for Lismer to be commissioned as an official war artist.[3] His best-known work from the war years depicted what he observed and learned about in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Mine sweeping, convoying, patrolling and harbor defense.[4] He also did some sketches of the Halifax Explosion.[5]

During his time as a war artist, he wrote a booklet for the Canadian Armed Services titled How to get started: Water Colour Painting for Pleasure.

Group of Seven[edit]

Group of seven artists: Frederick Varley, A. Y. Jackson, Lawren Harris, Fairley, Frank Johnston (artist), Arthur Lismer, and J. E. H. MacDonald

The collaboration of four artists at Grip gradually evolved into the Group of Seven, whose work was intended to contribute to the process of giving Canada a distinctive national voice in painting.[6][A] He also worked with the cadre at Grip.[7]

Arthur Lismer's style was influenced by his pre-Canadian experience (primarily in Antwerp), where he found the Barbizon and post-impressionist movements a key inspiration. Collaborating with the group of artists who would, in 1919, become the Group of Seven, Lismer exhibited the characteristic post-impressionist style, and spiritual connection with the landscape that would embody that group's work. That same year, he became the first art director of the Hart House Theatre until 1921.[8]

Like the other members of the Group of Seven many of his works began as small en plein air sketches in oil on hardboard.[9]

During the Centennial of the City of Toronto, in 1934, Lismer was on the Pictures Committee. His work in art education was effective; and this service to the wider community caused Lismer to become influential in ways not always achieved by his artist colleagues. For example, he started a children's art program at the Art Gallery of Toronto, which became successful in the 1930s.[10] In 1936, as Lismer`s prominence in the field of art education involved him in international travels, he went on a one-year tour of South Africa. Together with art educator Norah McCullough, he organized art education programmes, lectured on Canadian art and gave workshops for teachers. On the trip, he painted extensively in watercolour.[11]

He moved to Montreal in 1940, as a result of being given a teaching appointment at the Art Association of Montreal and established the MMFA School of Art and Design. He joined the McGill School of Architecture as a sessional lecturer in 1943 at the invitation of John Bland, the School’s director, and was appointed assistant professor in 1945, retiring in 1955 at the age of seventy.[12]

Between 1940 and 1950, he travelled in the summertime to the east coast of Canada to paint. He particularly liked to paint fishermen`s gear on the docks of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.[13]

Several members of the Group of Seven including Lismer became members of the Canadian Group of Painters.[14] In 1962, he received the Canada Council Medal for his contribution to Canadian art.[9] In 1967, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Lismer died on March 23, 1969, in Montreal, Quebec, and was buried alongside other members of the original Seven at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection Grounds.


In Toronto, Lismer Hall, the auditorium at Humberside Collegiate Institute is named in his honour. He painted one of the largest murals in Canada for the school during the 1930s that hangs on the auditorium's walls today.[15]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Several members of the Group of Seven later became members of the Canadian Group of Painters including Lawren Harris, A. J. Casson, Arthur Lismer, A. Y. Jackson, and Franklin Carmichael. The group was known for its depictions of the North American wilderness.


  1. ^ Grant, Anita (1996). "Lismer in Sheffield". Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d'Histoire de l'Art Canadien. 17 (1): 36–49. JSTOR 42615266.
  2. ^ Stevenson, Graham. "Lismer Ted". Compendium of Communist Biography. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  3. ^ Brandon, Laura. (2008). Art and War, p. 46., p. 46, at Google Books
  4. ^ Gallatin, Albert. (1919). Art and the Great War, p. 142., p. 142, at Google Books
  5. ^ Kelly, Gemey. "The Group of Seven and the Halifax Harbour Explosion: Focus on Arthur Lismer" (PDF). CBC. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  6. ^ Grigor, Angela Nairne. (2002). Arthur Lismer, Visionary Art Educator, p. 54., p. 54, at Google Books
  7. ^ Lismer, Arthur. "Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  8. ^ Grigor, Angela N. (2002). Arthur Lismer, Visionary Art Educator, p. 52.
  9. ^ a b Bradfield, Helen (1970). Art Gallery of Ontario: the canadian collection. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Company. pp. 245–250. ISBN 0070925046. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  10. ^ Reid, Dennis R. (1988). A Concise History of Canadian Painting, p. 179.
  11. ^ McCullough, Norah (1987). Arthur Lismer Watercolours. Guelph: Macdonald Stewart Art Centre. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  12. ^ "Arthur Lismer`s McGill Sketchbook". McGill U. Retrieved 2021-06-18.
  13. ^ Reid, Dennis (1985). Canadian Jungle: The Later Work of Arthur Lismer. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario. Retrieved 2021-06-24.
  14. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  15. ^ Liong, Alvin. "lismer's beautiful white twisted fantasy". Alvin Luong. Retrieved 2020-08-13.


External links[edit]