Franklin Carmichael

Art on this Day


On this day, Franklin Carmichael, a Canadian landscape artist was born (May 4, 1890). Carmichael was the youngest founding member of the 'Group of Seven', which was a group of Canadian landscape painters from 1920 to 1933. Other than Franklin Carmichael, the original members consist of, Lawren S. Harris, Alexander Young Jackson, Frank H. Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frederick H. Varley. Artists, Tom Thomson and Emily Carr were also closely associated with the group, although they were not official members they remained influential in the group's progress.


The ‘Group of Seven’ is known for its paintings inspired by the Canadian landscape, believing that a specific Canadian art could be developed through direct contact with nature. The ‘Group of Seven’ also initiated the first major Canadian national art movement. An extensive collection of work by the group can still be found in major art galleries in Canada, such as the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.


Franklin Carmichael attended the Ontario College of Art at the age of 20, where he studied with painters, William Cruickshank and George Reid. He also took some classes at the Toronto Technical School where he studied alongside Gustav Hahn, a German-Canadian muralist who introduced the Art Nouveau style in Canada.


In 1911, Carmichael apprenticed for Grip Ltd. which was an advertising agency, as a commercial artist. It was by working at this place that he met Arthur Lismer, J. E. MacDonald and Frederick Varley, establishing the ‘Group of Seven’. It is also how he met the artist, Tom Thomson. Franklin Carmichael and the other artists would often travel to the countryside on the weekends to sketch and paint the Canadian landscapes.



He moved to Belgium in 1913 to study painting but soon returned to his hometown in Ontario re-joining his fellow artists due to the First World War. Carmichael was hugely influenced by Tom Thomson whom he shared a space with at the Studio Building in 1914, which is now a National Historic Site of Canada due to it being the home and working studio of the ‘Group of Seven’ members and their artistic descendants making it a significant site for Canadian art history. Famous for his watercolours and known for his depiction of Northern Ontario landscapes, his Lone Lake piece, painted in 1929 was the highlight of a major sale of Canadian art in May 2012 at Joyner Waddington's spring art auction in Toronto which reached $330,400.


Franklin Carmichael became the president of ‘The Group of Seven’ in 1932 until 1934, despite being the youngest of the group. In 1933, he joined the Canadian Group of Painters. In 1925 he also founded the Ontario Society for Painters in Watercolour, along with two other painters: A.J. Casson and F. H. Brigden. He also taught at the Ontario College of Art from 1932 to 1945, and was assigned as the Head of Graphic and Commercial Art. Franklin Carmichael widened his medium and worked on wood engravings and linocuts, showing the same rigor and soft quality of his paintings. He illustrated for Canadian book publishers until his death on October 24th, 1945. He was 55 years old.