Roberts Gallery Blog
Roberts Gallery Blog

Spotlight on Franklin Carmichael

Franklin Carmichael was born in 1890 in Orillia, Ontario. He developed his love of drawing and painting, mainly in watercolour, in those early years. He continued his education after moving to Toronto in 1911 apprenticing at Grip Ltd, a top commercial art firm. At Grip, he met other artists who would, in 1920, form the Group of 7, of which Carmichael was a founding member. In the early Group years, he abandoned his watercolours while he concentrated on his oil sketches.

In 1924, he rekindled his interest in watercolour, and in 1925, along with A. J. Casson and senior artist F.H. Brigden, formed the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour. Their goal was to focus attention on this under-appreciated medium. Carmichael and Casson continued their passion for watercolour and in 1930 they commanded a separate room in that year’s Group of 7 show at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the AGO). They each exhibited 17 watercolours in that venue.



UNTITLED – SOUTHERN ONT. LANDSCAPE, 11 x 13 in., watercolour, c. 1930’s


The Art Gallery of Toronto responded by acquiring major works by each artist. That same year, Carmichael showed 5 studio watercolours across the United States in the important travelling Exhibition of Paintings by Contemporary Canadian Artists.

The 1930’s saw Carmichael focus in on the LaCloche area where he built a cabin in 1934 and ‘35 and spent all of his spare time hiking and painting there.



UNTITLED – LAKE BAPTISTE, 11 x 13 in., watercolour, c. 1930


These two works are typical examples of his watercolours from that period, with moving clouds and the light effects on the surrounding landscape. He would work initially in graphite and finish the piece in watercolour.