Defiant Spirits (Paperback)

The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven

By Ross King

Douglas & McIntyre, 9781553658825, 492pp.

Publication Date: October 11, 2011

List Price: 24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Beginning in 1912, Defiant Spirits traces the artistic development of Tom Thomson and the future members of the Group of Seven, Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, and Frederick Varley, over a dozen years in Canadian history. Working in an eclectic and sometimes controversial blend of modernist styles, they produced what an English critic celebrated in the 1920s as the most vital group of paintings” of the 20th century. Inspired by Cézanne, Van Gogh and other modernist artists, they tried to interpret the Ontario landscape in light of the strategies of the international avant-garde. Based after 1914 in the purpose-built Studio Building for Canadian Art, the young artists embarked on what Lawren Harris called an all-engrossing adventure”: travelling north into the anadian Shield and forging a style of painting appropriate to what they regarded as the unique features of Canada’s northern landscape.

Sumptuously illustrated, rigorously researched and drawn from archival documents and letters, Defiant Spirits constitutes a group biography,” reconstructing the men’s aspirations, frustrations and achievements. It details not only the lives of Tom Thomson and the members of the Group of Seven but also the political and social history of Canada during a time when art exhibitions were venues for debates about Canadian national identity and cultural worth.

About the Author

Ross King is the author of three previous best-selling art history books, including "Brunelleschi's Dome," which won the 2001 Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Adult Nonfiction and "The Judgment of Paris," winner of the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction in Canada. He lives in England, near Oxford.

Praise For Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven

"King's book does an excellent job of exploring the roles of these visionary individuals in the shaping of an artistic cultural identity."—Publishers Weekly

"King’s writing is characterized by clarity, compassion, and humanist intelligence. we feel we’ve actually met these individualsthe goal of any good biography."Library Journal

"[Defiant Spirits] is a paradigm shift. With his usual spirited prose and faultless research, King makes internationalists out of the Group of Seven"Canadian Art