Lake Superior Near Port Coldwell

Alfred Joseph (A.J.) Casson
  • Date: 1928
  • Medium: oil on board
  • Dimensions: 24 x 27.9 cm
  • Credit Line: Gift of Mr. A. J. Casson, Toronto, Ontario, 1972
  • Permanent Collection ID: 72.A.94

Lake Superior Near Port Coldwell

Alfred Joseph (A.J.) Casson

A.J. Casson first visited the Port Coldwell, Ontario area with Lawren Harris, Franklin Carmichael, and A.Y. Jackson. At that time, Port Coldwell was “a tiny fishing community of five homes and an ice-house.”1 A steep grade in the train tracks made stopping there impossible. With considerable resourcefulness, Harris “negotiated with the conductor … and the train slowed down to 25 mph” so the artists could jump out!2

Later in life, Casson recalled the “lovely, contoured hills”3 that figured in many of his sketches around Port Coldwell. In Lake Superior Near Port Coldwell, he renders these hills in bold strokes and brilliant colour, choosing a high vantage point that emphasizes their extensive range.

An accomplished watercolourist, Casson also completed many watercolour sketches of the Port Coldwell area. His choice of medium was often dictated by weather. “You can’t use watercolours,” he noted, “[when] there is too much damp and rain.”4 Yet working in oils outside (en plein air) had its own difficulties. Speaking of a 1930 trip with Lawren Harris to the Eastern Arctic, fellow Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson recalled, “I could not use my oil colours as the mosquitoes got all mixed up with the paint.”5

1  A.J. Casson, “My Favourite Watercolours 1919 to 1957” (Scarborough, ON: Cerebrus/Prentice Hall, 1982), quoted at

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4  Jon Butler, “A.J. Casson: Revisiting La Cloche.”

5 quoted in David Silcox, The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson (Toronto: Firefly Books, 2003), 379.