Banting & Jackson: A Shared Passion for Painting

Banting found an escape in his artwork, and improved as an artist under the tutelage of famed member of the Group of Seven, A.Y. Jackson. They would often go on sketching expeditions together, forming a lasting bond. The first sketching expedition they made together was in early March, 1927. Banting and A.Y. Jackson went to St. Jean Port Joli on the south shore of the St. Lawrence where there was no sign of spring. It was cold and windy and very exposed country. Banting was almost frozen stiff every day, but he struggled with frozen paint and fingers. A.Y. Jackson said that Banting’s only comment on one bitterly cold day was, “And I thought this was a sissy game.”

In the same year Banting and Jackson went to the Arctic. Banting’s sketches on this trip, the longest time he had ever spent sketching, showed a lot of promise. A.Y. Jackson would tease him about dropping science and turning to art. Banting responded quite seriously saying, “when I am fifty, that’s what I intend to do.” Banting believed that research was a job for young men, and that his duty was to create favorable conditions for them to work under.

In 1930 Banting and Jackson went to St. Fidele, a little village below Murray Bay. Banting sketched continually in all sorts of weather and was pleased with a word of approval. But his usual question, when he showed Jackson a sketch, was “Now what’s wrong with it?” Banting and Jackson also went on sketching trips to the Georgian Bay in the early spring and autumn, studying the forms and colors of rocks and the wind-blown pines and the play of light on the water. From a mere amateur, Banting was developing into a vigorous painter. Apart from a few canvases painted at home, most of his work was painted on small birch panels, out of doors, under all kinds of weather conditions. With Jackson, Banting learned how to simplify and to keep his colors fresh. Apart from that Banting was not concerned with theory or philosophy of art. Jackson remarked that Banting was a good companion, ready to go anywhere, patient, persistent and energetic. Had Banting survived the war, he surely would have returned to his sketching trips with Jackson, as A.Y. Jackson said that one of the last things Banting said to him was: “won’t it be great when the war is over to get back to the country and paint again!”

Come and share in Banting’s passion for art at Banting & Friends V on June 20th. It is an excellent way to remember Sir Frederick Banting as both a man and an artist, and to support local artists in honor of Banting. For more information please visit and download a ticket form at our event listing:

A.Y. Jackson and Frederick Banting about the S.S. Beothic, 1927 Gift of Mrs. Nancy Hardy-Banting, 2005 (c) 2013 Banting House National Historic Site of Canada
A.Y. Jackson and Frederick Banting about the S.S. Beothic, 1927
Gift of Mrs. Nancy Hardy-Banting, 2005
(c) 2013 Banting House National Historic Site of Canada

This post was written by one of our volunteers at Banting House, Bridget. Bridget has just completed her undergraduate degree at Western University, earning an Honours B.A. with a Double Major in History and Political Science. Bridget is originally from White Rock, British Columbia. In addition to volunteering at Banting House, she enjoys reading, swimming and learning about new technology in her spare time. 

If you would like to learn more about volunteering at Banting House, please visit our Volunteer Page. If you’d like to share your own experience living with diabetes, we would love to hear from you in the comments below. Or, if you’re nearby, please come and visit us at Banting House!

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