1981 Yukon Nuggets
Dr. Maurice Haycock
Dr. Maurice Haycock wasn’t a Yukoner, but he could have been. I first met him in 1964 when he accompanied his friend A.Y. Jackson to Whitehorse on one of their many northern painting expeditions together.
At the time, Mr. Jackson, the most famous Group of Seven painter, was approaching his 80th year. He needed the help of his friend and fellow artist, Maurice Haycock, who was 18 years younger. I met Jackson and Haycock in the Stratford Motel as they were preparing for a trip to Lake Lebarge to do, as Haycock always said, “some sketching.”
I was interviewing Jackson for local radio, and recall that I didn’t ask many questions. The famous artist was well prepared to discuss his life-long painting association with the north. He talked for about an hour.
Maurice Haycock, I learned when I accompanied him to Lake Laberge with A.Y. Jackson, was a trained geologist who fell in love with the north when he spent a year in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island in 1926.
He had gone there to assist in mapping the interior of the arctic island for the Geological Survey of Canada.
He lived with the Inuit, learned the language, journeyed by dog team and, when he returned south, he earned a Ph.D. in Economic Geology at Princeton University.
The inspiration for Haycock’s painting career came from the Arctic landscapes, and through a chance meeting with A.Y. Jackson, who was painting the north in 1927 while travelling on the government ship, the Beothic.
Following a visit to Great Bear Lake in 1949 with Jackson, he travelled and painted extensively across the north, virtually every year until his death in 1988.
To many in the art world, he became the eighth member of the Group of Seven. His paintings tell a story of geological vastness and beauty, of peace, challenge and exploration.
Dr. Maurice Haycock was more than a painter. He was a trained mineralogist, geologist, photographer, musician, and historian. He was, when I knew him in Ottawa in the 1980s, a virtual encyclopedia of both northern science and folklore.
I had many occasions to talk with him and glean his knowledge about the north that he so willingly gave for radio programs. One day at his home, he showed me sketches that he had recently made in the Yukon.
At the time, he was turning the sketches into full-blown oil paintings. Though the sketches were crude and quickly done, I could identify many of the Yukon scenes.
A few years previous, Rolf and Margaret Hougen had invited him to come to the Yukon to paint whatever he wanted. Haycock’s work had come to the attention of Marg Hougen, who had bought one of his paintings during the trip with A.Y. Jackson in 1964.
This time, Rolf wanted Dr. Haycock to paint the rest of the Yukon and provided a motor home in Inuvik so that he could drive down the Dempster Highway, painting and sketching. The Haycocks spent several days in Dawson City, Carmacks and Fort Selkirk.
They drove the Canol Road painting all the way. Rolf Hougen remembers that Dr. Haycock did about one hundred paintings, one of which appeared on the cover of the NorthwesTel phone book in 1986.
It is called “The Peel River Valley and the Ogilvie Range from the Dempster Highway.”
Maurice Haycock died on December 23, 1988, at the age of 88 years, in Ottawa, where he is remembered as the Artist of the Arctic.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.