Franklin Carmichael | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Franklin Carmichael

Franklin Carmichael, painter (born 4 May 1890 in Orillia, ON; died 24 October 1945 in Toronto).
Snow Clouds
Franklin Carmichael, 1938, oil on canvas (courtesy Franklin Carmichael/NGC).
Bigwin Inn
CNR title page, 1928 (courtesy CN).
Ontario Promotional Poster
Designed by Franklin Carmichael, 1928 (courtesy CN).

Franklin Carmichael, painter (born 4 May 1890 in Orillia, ON; died 24 October 1945 in Toronto). A founding member of the Group of Seven, Carmichael was active and influential as a painter, industrial designer and teacher.

Education and Early Career

In 1911, Carmichael entered the Ontario College of Art (now the Ontario College of Art and Design University), where he studied with William Cruickshank and George Reid. He also took classes with Gustav Hahn, a German-born muralist and interior decorator who brought Art Nouveau to Canada, at the Toronto Technical School.

In 1911, Carmichael apprenticed with the Toronto commercial-art firm Grip Limited, where he met several artists who later formed the Group of Seven, including Tom Thomson. He joined Thomson and others on weekend sketching trips. He studied in Antwerp, Belgium from 1913 to 1914, but he had to move back to Canada at the onset of the First World War. Sharing studio space with Tom Thomson, he worked as a designer in Toronto. At the same time, he painted watercolours and oils of the northern Ontario landscape. Along with Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, and Frederick Varley, he co-founded the Group of Seven in 1920.

Carmichael had a softer palette and more decorative sensibility than other members of the Group of Seven. Autumn Hillside (1920), for instance, has flat yellow trees rising in the middle ground like a kind of Japanese screen, the sky soft lavender. Mirror Lake (1929), on the other hand, is more austere but equally sensuous, the undulating treeless hills, mirrored in a lake, rendered in soft, edible purple, lavender, and green.

Beyond the Group of Seven

With A.J. Casson and F. H. Brigden, Carmichael was a founding member in 1925 and president 1932-34 of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. He was also a founding member in 1933 of the Canadian Group of Painters whose original members included Emily Carr, A.J. Casson, Lawren Harris, Edwin Holgate, Arthur Lismer, Anne Savage, and F.H. Varley, among others. He taught at the Ontario College of Art from 1932-1945 as Head of Graphic and Commercial Art.

The Group of Seven

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