Tour of Franklin Carmichael's landscape 'like living in a book' for Temiskaming curator
Temiskaming Art Gallery curator Melissa Laporte receives unexpected surprise from artist's family
For Melissa La Porte, curator and director of the Temiskaming Art Gallery, visiting the ground where notable Canadian artist Franklin Carmichael painted some of his best-known work, was the event of a lifetime.
Carmichael, who died in 1945, is best known for his watercolour paintings of northern Ontario landscapes.
La Porte's adventure began in 2019, after putting a call-out to the public for any clues about a lost A.Y. Jackson painting, rumoured to still be in the Temiskaming area.
The lost painting didn't turn up, but La Porte said the search turned up other treasures.
"A member of Franklin Carmichael's family reached out to us and said, 'you know, I don't have A.Y. Jackson. But what I do have is a ton of cool stuff about Franklin Carmichael.'"
The family member, who told La Porte he prefers to stay out of the limelight, invited her and other gallery staff to Willisville, where Carmichael, and other members of the Group of Seven, painted some of their best-known work.
He toured them around the family property, giving them glimpses into the creative process behind Carmichael's art.
"It was like living in a book, with the best possible tour guide showing us all the spots," La Porte said.
"Like, Carmichael sat here and he painted this scene. But you'll see these trees on the left have grown up a bit. But the mining operations over there, that's made the mountain a little bit smaller. And that explains why it doesn't look exactly like it did."
She added, "what else can you ask for? It was literally like touring the painting."
The tour provided a special magic for art lovers, something the Temiskaming Art Gallery, which operates its own Group of Seven tours in the region, had been hoping to replicate.
"It's opened a whole new avenue of research for us in connection with Carmichael's family and his work in Cobalt," La Porte said. "It's just been incredible."
As for her other quest, La Porte said she hasn't completely given up on finding the lost A.Y. Jackson.
"I do think it's still out there. I have hopes that it's just perhaps it's been in the hands of a collector who is not from our area. They haven't heard the story or they don't recognize it," she said.
"I mean, as beautiful as it is, it does kind of look like a lake in northern Ontario."