Naomi Jackson Groves (1910- 2001)
"In the old Laurentians in March" 1957
13.5" x 11.5"
Oil on Wood Panel
Born in Montreal, Quebec in 1910, Groves showed a remarkable understanding of painting at the age of three, knowing, for instance, names of colours such as ultramarine. Her father, Henry A.C. Jackson, was a commercial artist, and her uncle, A.Y. Jackson was to become one of the original members of the Group of Seven. She received her education in Montreal and took instruction in art at the Montreal Art Association School under Alberta Cleland and privately with Harold Beament and Sarah Robertson (all before 1929); then under Emil Rannow and Viggo Brandt at Copenhagen, Denmark (1928-9).
Groves returned to Montreal where she attended McGill University and specialised in modern languages (German and French), receiving her B.A. in 1933 and M.A. in 1935. In 1936 she took some lessons under Lilias Torrance Newton at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. She taught German at McGill for three years. In 1936 she was awarded a Canadian Federation of University Women’s Scholarship for a year’s study on “artistic versatility” in Germany and she was accompanied on the first part of the trip by her uncle, A.Y. Jackson. After four months research in the Goethe House, Weimar, she had two semesters at the Universities of Berlin and Munich. There among other things, she discovered the works of Ernst Barlach who, she learned, was being persecuted by the Nazis. Barlach finally died of a broken heart in 1938 and Groves become resolved to keep alive his writings and his art. She did extensive research on his work and became a leading authority on him.
Following Grove’s return to America she was awarded a fellowship to Radliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she did graduate work for her Ph.D., in German Philology. She taught for two years at Wheaton College, Massachusetts. At Radcliffe and Wheaton Colleges she held showings of her paintings and published a short monograph on Goethe’s drawings.
In July of 1941 she sailed for Greenland on a Norwegian freighter carrying badly needed supplies from Canada. Greenland had been cut off from her mother country by Nazi occupation. Groves landed at Godthaab where she stayed for three months. She travelled on the “Adolf Jensen”, a ‘doctor boat’, with the Godthaab medical team (headed by Dr. Bisgaard-Frantzen) to settlements within its district. During this trip she was able to observe the general habits and habitats of the villagers and to see the efficient operation of the district’s medical supervision. Over the three-month period there, she did a number of sketches and made notes on her observations, some of which appeared in her article “With the ‘Doctor Boat’ Along the Greenland Coast” for “The Geographical Review”.
In 1942 she exhibited along with her father and uncle in the show “The Three Jacksons” at the Montreal Museum of. Fine Arts. Most of her paintings were done in oils or watercolours and are mainly landscapes in a decorative realistic style. They show the influence of A.Y. Jackson and Sarah Robertson. In September of 1942 she became Assistant to the Director of the National Gallery of Canada. Wanting more time for her creative outlets, she resigned from the gallery in August 1943, and rented a studio on Bank Street in Ottawa where she did her painting. Two nights a week she taught German at Carleton College. She also conducted painting classes for the University Women’s Club. Her Ph.D. thesis on Barlach won high praise from Harvard University. She did not wait to be awarded her diploma in German Philology but left in 1945 for Finland to serve with the American Quakers (American Friends Service Committee) and worked with a small team of American, Finnish, Danish, Swedish and English volunteers who supervised the distribution of 150 or more tons of clothing and the feeding of Finnish children in 260 Lapland schools. Finland, devastated by the retreating Nazis in 1944, was in dire need of this assistance. During her two-year service in Finland she collected Finnish child art from the schools which she exhibited in America and she managed to do some painting. She also worked two years in Germany (1947-49) with this same Committee.
In 1950 Groves completed final requirements and received her Ph.D. from Harvard. In the winter of 1950-51 she gave a pioneer course on German Art of The Twentieth Century for McGill University’s Extension Department. In 1951 Doctor Jackson became Assistant Professor and Head of the Department of Fine Arts at McMaster University in Hamilton where she taught and lectured for seven years, being advanced to Associate Professor in 1957. In 1957 she married James Walton Groves, then Chief of the Mycology Section of Agriculture Canada’s Botany Division. She then left McMaster in 1958 and went on a tour of Northern Europe with her husband. Then she became a consultant on Canadian art t o the National Gallery of Canada (Nov.1963 to Mar.1964). She undertook considerable lecturing and writing on 20th Century German art, particularly on Barlach. During 1962-64 part of her collection of Barlach woodcuts and lithographs were part of a travelling exhibition arranged by the National Gallery of Canada.
In addition to her translations for Barlach’s writing, she translated several works by Greenlandic artist and write Jens Rosing and authored several books about A.Y. Jackson. She received honorary doctorates in literature from McMaster in 1972 and Carleton in 1990 and was awarded the Order of Canada in 1993. Groves passed away in Ottawa on December 25th, 2001.
Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 2: G-Jackson", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979