N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: May 13, 1971
Discipline / contribution: art
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the Council and Senate, I present to you Alfred Joseph Casson, one of Canada’s distinguished artists and one of the last remaining members of the famed Group of Seven. Alfred Casson was born in Toronto on May 17, in 1898. In 1916 he launched himself as a free-lance designer while nourishing his growing ambition to be a landscape painter. It was about this time that he first saw the paintings of artists like Tom Thompson, Arthur Lismer and A.Y. Jackson, which made a deep and lasting impression upon him. In 1919 Casson met Franklin Carmichael, who was a leading typographer and graphic designer and who in 1920 was one of the founders of the Group of Seven. Carmichael was a profound influence upon Casson and the two became very closely associated. In 1926 Casson became a member of the Group.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
Alfred Casson has had a most remarkable career that includes a long list of honors, awards and accomplishments. To mention only a few: he was president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts for four years and of the Ontario Society of Artists for five years. He was chairman of the Council of the Ontario College of Art; vice-president of the Art Gallery of Toronto; and vice-president and art director of Sampson-Matthews Ltd. His work is represented widely in the leading art galleries and museums throughout Canada. He has designed postage stamps and painted numerous murals.
In honoring A.J. Casson today we also honor the Group of Seven. This is particularly fitting since last year saw the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Group which included a comprehensive exhibition at the National Gallery and the publication of a handsome book commemorating the history of the Group. In its brief span from 1920 to 1932 the Group of Seven was to Canada and Canadian art what the Impressionists were earlier to France and the entire world of art. The work of A.J. Casson and all the other artists associated with the Group appeared at a time when the frontiers of art in Canada were relatively undiscovered. These artists fostered a renewal of vision and self-discovery and with that the development of Canadian art. In our own turbulent time the great promise of continued growth which issued from our incredible pioneers is not easily discernable. Indeed there are many serious and gifted artists and even groups at work in Canada today in the ‘70’s. Yet one wonders which of them will stand out with the same uniqueness and strength which characterized the Group of Seven in the 20’s and 30’s.
It is a privilege for me to participate in honoring a fellow artist. Though artists may differ drastically in the form, content or style of their work, at the level of creation all artists of all times are one.
Eminent Chancellor, I present to you Alfred Joseph Casson, and ask that you will confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Degree presented by: Eli Bornstein, Head of Art
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