Tom Thomson

Thomas John "Tom" Thomson died in 1917 at 39. He is a well known Canadian painter and was influential to a number of painters some of whom came to be known as the Group of Seven. He was not a member as he died, mysteriously, before the Group of Seven formed.

Looking at these paintings up close at a computer does his work a disservice like looking at any impressionist painting, really. Looking at them from a distance is what really brings home how well he painted his surroundings. I saw many of his paintings at the Art Gallery of Ontario a few years ago and they were beautiful and realistic and you felt like you could almost hear the leaves rustling.

In the Northland

Pine Island

After the Sleet

Algonquin Sunset

Bateaux (boat)

There is a rugged beauty unique to the Canadian Shield and Thomson captures it hauntingly. He had the habit of carrying small squares of old wood for his paintings and in many of them the grain or the actual wood shows through.

Early Spring, Algonquin

Fall Woods, Algonquin

Maple Saplings, October

He seems like an unpretentious guy. He was a guide for fishing parties and was adept at canoeing.  He named paintings in a prosaic, unadorned style.

Path Behind Mowat Lodge
This is my favourite, he absolutely nails sun dappled snow here
Also, he signed it so he must have liked it too

If you have ever had the opportunity to walk along pathways covered in snow, with the sun starting to set and shining through trees or fences onto the snow in front of you, you know what I'm talking about. The colour can be surreal. All purples and blues, periwinkle even. Standing back from this picture gives you a crystal clear idea of what it looks like. Humour me. Get up and walk away then  turn around and look at it. It's like a photograph. You can let me know if your mind isn't blown.

Mowat Lodge

Northern River

He only began to paint seriously in his thirties and he was self taught. He was a naturalist and spent much of his time painting things he found as he found them. Having spent my first twelve years in Northern Ontario, much of my childhood was spent among landscapes very similar to the ones portrayed in his work and for that reason I feel a connection to it.

Self portrait

The Jack Pine

Wild Flowers

He was last seen alive around mid-day, July 8, 1917 as he headed out onto Canoe Lake like he did hundreds of times before. He knew the area well as a former Park fire ranger, a guide and while painting his beloved Algonquin.  Shortly after he left his empty canoe was found floating close by to the dock from which he departed. His body was found more than a week later. 

Canadian mysteries has an article about his mysterious death here.

More work by Tom Thomson and also Group of Seven here

Lake Scugog

Looking like the quintessential Canadian Lumberjack

Fishing in Algonquin Park


Unknown said...

Thank you for this post!

I am so inspired by his works!


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