The Canadian School of Painting is immersing oneself in nature, to be inspired and create en plein air. AY Jackson and the Group of Seven were infamous for what the Canadian critics called the Hot Mush Style.The Hot Mush Style is the quick manipulation of thick vibrant pigment to create light and shadow. The style was used as the cornerstone for establishing the Canadian School of Painting.
A Y Jackson was Canada’s leading Hot Musher. Holy Cow! That’s a tough one to beat; I thought my hair loss prevention program had a chance. AY also believed that Canadian Artists should have to climb four mountains, paddle three lakes, portage six beaver dams, and fight off two polar bears, to get the painting. So you better work quickly my friend. Jackson a WWI wounded veteran war artist, possessed the Canadian spirit of determination in exploring and recording Canada’s epic hidden landscape.
History records Group of Seven members as producing up to eight en plein air sketches per day. This style of painting is deliberate and physical. This form of Abstract Expressionism found many of its roots in European Art.
The Group of Seven were all trained in Europe and exposed to the great en plein air painters of the period which included Expressionists, Impressionists, Pre Raphaelites, Fauvists, Modernists and Traditionalists. The masters of the Royal Museums of England, France and Germany were also available.
The origins of the Hot Mush style of painting were passed down from the great art studios of the Italians, Dutch and Spanish. Compositions had become so large that artists were forced to paint deliberately in application. You see impasto and rapid paint application becoming more expressive in many of the studios of Europe as early as the Baroque period of art history.
Examples include the works of Tinteretto in the Venetian School, El Greco in the Spanish School and Rubens in the Dutch School. Rapid paint application is seen with thick Impasto used to bring the plane forward creating a reality to the viewer in many of the great compositions of the period.
Greek and Roman sculpture also played a role in the development of the Hot Mush style with the creation of low relief sculpture using light and shadow to create composition. Low relief sculpture reached it’s zenith with sculptors, Clodion of France, Canova of Italy and Thorwaldsen of Denmark all whose works were celebrated events in Europe. The same premise of creating light and shadow applies to the Hot Mush Style only using pigment and color.
The unearthing of Art Treasures from ancient civilizations also a profound influence to the revival of classical philosophies. The Parthenon Marbles and the Tomb of the Nereids in London and the Alter of Zeus in Berlin. The discoveries of Troy, Mycene, Ephesus, Knosos, Persepolis,Palmyra, Lepcis Magna all contributed to a revival of the Golden Age of antiquity. Questioning man’s relationship with a benevolent power and universal nature. Many Group members advocated the spiritual experience of creating in nature.
Artists who experience en plein air painting know the Hot Mush or impasto style as named in Italy lends itself naturally to expression of the elements . Famous practitioners of the style include Van Gogh, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Grabar, Cezanne, Pissarro, Monet, Manet, Munch, Picasso, Bonnard, Matisse , AY Jackson amd Tom Thomson… all were Hot Mushers.
The Hot Mush Style, gleamed the Creativity of all nations to form the identity of one. It is a Canadian style that transcends and inspires. But most of all it’s fun.
I would like to extend special recognition to award winning Art Historian and Canadian British Author Ross King. His crowning achievement Defiant Spirits will be standard curiculum for all Canadian Institutions of learning .
Pierre AJ Sabourin