Wonish lake and the Savage family

Wonish Lake

Annie D. Savage, 1920-1930.
Source: Concordia University Archives

'The part of the country that is my favourite place is a little lake in the Laurentians...this beautiful little lake with very deep, clear, cold water. The country around the lake is very hilly, with little ravines and hills, so that without going any further than a very short distance, you can sit down, turn your back and you have a completely new composition.' Anne Savage, 1967.

Anne Savage

Anne Savage at her teaching desk at Baron Byng High School, 1940.
Source: Concordia University Archives

Anne Savage (1896-1971) was a Canadian artist who made a remarkable contribution both to the history of Canadian painting and to the teaching of fine art. She was a member of the Montreal Beaver Hall group, the Contemporary Arts Society, founded in 1939, and the Canadian Group of Painters, of which she was twice president. She lived through an exciting period in Quebec's art history and participated in its profound social changes, including women’s suffrage.

Arrival at the lake

The Savage family's summer home on Wonish Lake, circa 1911.
Source: BAnQ, Valentine & Sons' Publishing Co.

Her father, John G. Savage, was the heir to the Albert Soaps Company, makers of the very popular 'Baby's Own' soap. He acquired Wonish Lake in 1911 and built the first family cottage. The first impression of the site was likely hard to forget, given that a fire had razed part of the forest on one side of the lake; they spent their first summer there without electricity or running water. Anne was a teenager at the time and remembers watching her Aunt Minnie paint for days on end; she had a great influence on Anne's view of the surrounding landscape.

The workshop

Anne Savage, Lake Wonish, oil on panel, circa 1931.

In 1933, Anne built a studio at the head of the lake between the family home and 'Kilmarnock', the log cabin that John Savage had built for his son Don, Anne's twin brother. She did most of her painting there during the spring and summer breaks of her long teaching career. 

Occasionally she would also interrupt the quiet of her retreat to invite nieces or nephews to pose for her.

Excerpt from African Waltz

Sources: From Galt MacDermot's African Waltz, by Cannonball Adderly and His Orchestra, Fantasy Records, 1961

Excerpt from African Waltz

For five generations, descendants of John G. Savage have developed theshoreline of Wonish Lake. The area has long since reforested and the homes are hidden from sight. 

One of those residents, Galt MacDermot (1928-2018), nephew of Anne Savage, was a prolific composer. He catapulted to international fame by the music he wrote for the 1967 musical 'Hair.' His career is studded with awards and recognition: Grammy for African Waltz in 1960, Grammy for Hair in 1972 and induction into the Songwriters Hall of fame in 2009. Today, he is one of the most sampled artists by hip-hop singers.

Extract of
Lac-des-Seize-Iles... History and Heritage

Lac-des-Seize-Iles... History and Heritage image circuit

Presented by : Municipalité de Lac-des-Seize-Îles
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