OTTAWA -- The artists of The Group of Seven are credited with helping us see and understand the Canadian landscape.

“Before the Group of Seven came along, Canadian painters had a really European feel,” said Alexandra Badzak, President and CEO of the Ottawa Art Gallery.

“The palette was different, the light was different.  These guys came along and said, 'no, we are going to paint the Canadian landscape as we see it. Its bold light is different.”

Badzak adds “it has really given us a sense of Canada.”

This May marks the 100th anniversary of The Group of Seven's first exhibition in Toronto.

At the Ottawa Art Gallery, the celebration is intimate. It not only honours 100 years of the Group of Seven, this display is about “collecting” and “recollecting”. 

The year-long exhibit highlights the relationship between the artists in the group and the prominent Ottawa art patrons and voracious collectors Ottawa’s O.J. & Isobel Firestone.

The Firestone Gallery houses 1,600 original Canadian works.  All were donated to the people of the city of Ottawa in the early seventies.

“It’s essentially the Canadian canon in the art world,” said Badzak.

Six-hundred of those pieces are by members of the Group of Seven.   

Curator Rebecca Basciano sorted through the paintings to produce an exhibit that reflects how the Firestones collected and displayed the pieces.

“I tried to pick a real cross-section of their styles and subject matter. And of course, represent various members of the group, especially A.Y. Jackson and A.J. Casson, with whom the Firestones had personal relationships,“ said Basciano.

Badzak is passionate about the Firestone’s contribution to Ottawa.

“O.J. and Isobel Firestone were amazing collectors. They had this beautiful home in Rockcliffe where they had art everywhere. They couldn’t stop collecting. It was a treasure trove for us.”

In this exhibit, Basciano worked to create that warm and inviting feeling of the Firestone living room with teak accents, curtains, and a sense of the family furniture.

Badzak says “the notion of inspiring the feeling of ‘home’ was really important to us.  We wanted this to be a respite. A place where people really enjoy themselves, and appreciate the art.  Just like the Firestone family home.”

That is also the feeling the CEO has worked to create at the Ottawa Art Gallery.  She wants people of all ages to feel welcome, all of the time.  Admission to the gallery is always free.  It is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The official opening reception for "(Re)Collecting the Group of Seven: Celebrating 100 years" is March 11 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The exhibit runs until January 10, 2021.