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Tale of the missing A.Y. Jackson painting

Sudbury Living Magazine August 9, 2017 Sudbury's Stories, Upfront No Comments

A. Y. Jackson painted many scenes in northeastern Ontario including this one of Nellie Lake, and the missing painting of Onaping Falls.



Reprinted from Northern Life  March 21, 2006 

I’ve had a good look at a famous A. Y. Jackson painting stolen from Sudbury Tech in 1974 — and I like it. I also have a lot of old Sudbury friends, and Northern Life readers, to thank for it.
Let me explain.
No, we haven’t found the missing A. Y. Jackson paintings, Spring on the Onaping River, which we Tech students called Onaping Falls, and A Windy Day — Lake Superior. They are still listed under those names by the RCMP fraud squad in Ottawa, and the international Interpol police, as stolen
RCMP Cpl. Dave McCrea told me in 2002 that there are nine A. Y. Jackson paintings on the international stolen list.
(A recent Vancouver auction offered Canadian paintings for sale, including an A. Y. Jackson. They brought in record prices in the hundreds-of-thousand-dollar range.
Police say famous paintings from various countries are being used among criminals to help launder illegal drug money.)
I wrote an item in this newspaper about what I call my A. Y. Jackson painting mystery in 2002. As a result, I’ve been contacted by phone by several old friends and other Sudbury area people interested in the subject.
One of them was Joy T. She said she had read the article and thought she had a copy of the Onaping Falls picture. She said hers was said to have been copied from a photo taken by Sudbury Tech teacher, Jack Smith.
I knew Mr. S. But I hadn’t seen him in over four decades. He had been my art and form teacher in the mid-1950s. He’s the person to whom my class reported in the morning and after lunch, before going to our other assigned classes.
Smith had taught me the little I know about art.
He was one of those great teachers who encouraged all students to pursue their interests and be their own teachers. He influenced me greatly.
But I didn’t know how to find him. However, my Sudbury Tech friend, and fellow student council member, Jim Collison, did.
“Let’s phone him,” he said during one of my visits to Sudbury last summer. “I’m sure he’d want to see us again.”
And we did. And he did, too. Mr. S and his wife, both Sudbury artists, were in better condition than their former students. They received us and asked us hundreds of questions about our lives.
But we got some questions in, too.
“Can you remember the A. Y. Jackson painting the old Sudbury Tech student council gave to the school on condition it was kept in the hall so the students could enjoy it?” I asked him.
“Of course,” said Mr. S. “I took a photo of it for my own research, in that hall. I blew the photograph up to the actual size and then filled it in with colour. Would you want to see it?”
He smiled at our amazement. He got the picture out of his many art files. Jim got his camera out and snapped away. He let me also take a few pictures of the painting, with Mr. Smith and himself in it, “just to give it size.”
And Mr. S. and my friend Jim gave me permission to offer one of the pictures to the RCMP and Interpol.
“I don’t mind if I hear from them,” said Mr. S., smiling mischievously.
“I guess we’re all on the suspect list now.”
Art experts in the Canadian capital say the value of all Canadian paintings has mushroomed lately —especially if the artists have passed away.
The Group of Seven, to which Jackson belonged, are all gone. Besides Alexander Young Jackson (1888-1974), there were A. J. Casson (1898-1992), F. H. Varley (1881-1969), Tom Thomson (1877-1917), Franklin Carmichael (1890-1945), Arthur Lismer (1885-1969) and Lawren S. Harris (1885-1970).
I must say that now that I’ve seen a copy of the Onaping Falls painting again, thanks to all of you and Mr. S.’s professional interests many years ago, it impresses me more now, in my gray-haired retirement days, than it did when I was a teenage student council member.
But I still prefer to go out to the Onaping Falls park and compare the “real thing” to Jackson’s painting. (I should also get out to Windy Lake to do
some fishing there again, as my late father taught me to do.)
And, maybe you can still help me find “my late friend’s” stolen paintings.
It’s amazing what we can do, working together. (It might help a lot of us get off that art theft suspect list!

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