Sunday, 10 April 2011

Tom Thomson

This is Canoe Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, Northern Ontario.
One of Canada's best-known landscape artists, Tom Thomson, used to go there to paint and fish in the early years of the last century, and eventually he settled beside the lake.

Tom Thomson (1877-1917)
On 8th July 1917 Thomson set out in his canoe for a fishing trip - and his body was found in the water eight days later. He was only 39. There was no post-mortem, and theories abound as to the cause of death: murder, accident or suicide. None of them are conclusive, but all have added an air of mystery and drama to the man, his work and indeed the place.

Thomson is invariably mentioned alongside The Group of Seven. The group wasn't in fact founded until after his death, but he knew several of its members, and directly influenced their work. His trademark broad-brush, impressionistic methods have been compared to post-impressionists Van Gogh and Cezanne, with whose work he would probably have been familiar, but his style was very much his own. He captured the harsh and rugged country of Northern Ontario, land of lakes and stones and trees, with raw honesty. Lynn was lucky enough to see several of his paintings on a canoeing trip to Algonquin some years ago, and although you can't compare their work, I'm sure she'll forgive me for saying that she has given a nod in Thomson's direction more than once - she certainly admires his work.

Pines on Eagle Hill, Islandmore, Strangford Lough

Pine Island, Tom Thomson (1914-16)

Especially at the edge of dark, the three pine trees to the north of The Blue Cabin often make me think of Thomson, and a painting from 1914-16 called Pine Island (Pine Island is in Georgian Bay, off Lake Huron). But my favourite Thomson is probably his most famous: The Jack Pine, painted on Grand Lake in 1917, shortly before his untimely death. If you want to see it, it's in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, on a calendar in The Blue Cabin and on the wall of my bedroom in my mother's house at Seaforde.

The Jack Pine, Tom Thomson (1917)
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