Alexander Young (A.Y.) Jackson 1882 - 1974 Canadian oil on canvas Smart River, Alaska Highway 21 x 26 3/16 inches 53.3 x 66.5 centimeters signed and on verso signed, titled and dated 1944 Literature:A.Y. Jackson, A Painter's Country, The Autobiography of A.Y. Jackson, 1958, pages 172 - 173 Provenance:Edgar and Dorothy Davidson, Montreal and then moving to Ottawa in 1972 Edgar and Dorothy Davidson's collection of Canadian art was rich in depth and broad in style and type. On their walls were bold abstractions by Jean-Paul Riopelle, vivid Lake Superior works by Lawren Harris and serene figures by Jean Paul Lemieux. This fluid canvas painted by A.Y. Jackson was a favourite of Dorothy; it hung in her home until her death, serving, no doubt, as a reminder of the friendship she and 'Davy' had developed with Jackson and the meals she had served him in their Montreal home. Jackson painted in the forest on the Davidsons' Montreal property. He was an eager guest when invited to stay, happy to sketch and to join in a good meal, and his recollections of these friendships in his autobiography A Painter's Country are warm and insightful. He gives accolades to collectors like the Davidsons whose support for the development of art in Canada through their purchases of new work was critical. In 1943, Jackson and Henry Glyde traveled the newly built Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to Peace River to paint. The road had been built as part of defensive efforts of the United States, and Harry McCurry of the National Gallery of Canada arranged for Glyde and Jackson to paint a record of this newly accessible territory. They arrived in late autumn while colour was still about and new snow beginning to arrive - perfect conditions for Jackson's approach. His eye for character in the land noted trees that had been partially uprooted so that they sat at odd angles along the highway, a typical Jackson observation. They were able to see much of the surrounding land, having drivers assigned to assist them and letters of permission from the United States government at hand. Working for the National Gallery of Canada, they were treated as honoured guests. Jackson recalls: "We motored west from Whitehorse to Kluane Lake not far from the Alaska border. For a hundred and fifty miles the road runs through a high open country with mountain ranges on either side. The timber line gets lower in the north so that the mountains rise from the wooded plains with hardly a tree on them. Mile after mile of sharp pointed peaks covered with snow form a background, while the road follows the long swinging undulations of open, wooded country - stretches of spruce and poplar, grassland or burnt-over country, lands of little sticks. There was no snow in the valleys, but the ground was rich with hoar frost where the sun could not find it." The rolling tundra and muskeg of this region appealed strongly to Jackson, and the distant mountains provided a bold backdrop to scenes such as this view of the Smart River. The glassy water has a polished smoothness to it as it reflects the forest and distant mountain. This effect is heightened by the dark outlines and wavy, framing trees. "We had heard stories about this part of the country," Jackson continues, "that it was just a great stretch of monotonous bush. Perhaps it was the crisp October weather with the low sun, the sombre richness of the colour, the frost and patches of snow, the ice along the edge of the rivers, but whatever the reason, we found it fascinating." In Smart River, Alaska Highway, Jackson's brushwork is smooth and his colours are very fine, conveying a sense of both the season and the temperature. It is as if a new land is being laid out before us, with a road that we too might explore. Jackson was well aware of his privilege in being there during wartime and that his works could take others to places they had not been. Thus it is no surprise that this work was chosen for reproduction in silkscreen format for the Federation of Canadian Artists Series of prints produced by Sampson Matthews Limited in the mid-1940s. A preparatory tempera painting was also produced in the process.