Tom Thomson

Tom Thomson was, despite his sadly brief career, the greatest inspiration for the future Group of Seven. His death in a mysterious canoeing accident in July 1917 is rightly seen as one the great tragedies of Canadian art history.

By McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Byng Inlet, Georgian Bay (1914 - 1915) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Tom Thomson (1877–1917)

Tom Thomson is often wrongly assumed to have been a member of the Group of Seven. He almost certainly would have been had he not died too soon. 

Evening (1915) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Although forever enshrined in Canadian legend as a young man—he was thirty-nine when he died—he would in fact have been the second eldest of the Group, after J.E.H. MacDonald, but he found his artistic voice late. He worked as a commercial artist under MacDonald at Grip Ltd., and it was the older artist who encouraged him to take painting seriously. 

In Algonquin Park (1914) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Thomson travelled to Algonquin Park for the first time in 1912, returning every summer thereafter. His career as a serious artist really lasted only three or four years, hitting its stride in 1914 when Dr. James MacCallum made an offer (also made to A.Y. Jackson) to underwrite his living expenses. 

Sunset (1915) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Purple Hill (1916) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

This generosity allowed Thomson to concentrate fully on his art, and he became one of the first artists to share a studio, with Jackson, in the newly built Studio Building in January 1914. 

Burned Over Land (1916) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Twisted Maple (1914) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Later he moved into the wooden shack nearby (now reconstructed at the McMichael), where he was to spend his winters painting. 

Early Spring (1917) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Autumn, Algonquin Park (1916 - 1917) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

By the end of 1914, Thomson was beginning to disconcert the much more experienced Jackson with the brilliance of his oil sketches, and over the next couple of years he electrified his friends with hundreds of those dazzling sketches, while producing a handful of large-scale works that have become Canadian icons. 

Byng Inlet, Georgian Bay (1914 - 1915) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Islands, Canoe Lake (1916) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Despite his considerable reputation as an outdoorsman, canoeist, and Algonquin guide, Thomson drowned in Canoe Lake in July 1917 in circumstances that have remained mysterious ever since.    

The Tent (1915) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Winter: Sketch for In Algonquin Park (1914) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Spring in Algonquin Park (1917) by Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917)McMichael Canadian Art Collection

His loss was a true tragedy for Canadian art and was keenly felt by his friends, but his influence proved fundamental to the founding of the Group of Seven in 1920. 

Credits: Story

McMichael Canadian Art Collection

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