Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tom Thomson and The Group Of Seven

I headed to the McMichael gallery just north of Toronto to visit their collection of Tom Thomson and The Group of Seven paintings. Like most Canadians, I am very familiar with some of their works since they form a back drop, and influence so much, of 20th and 21st century Canadian art.

Yellow Sunset, 1916

After spending the better part of the morning absorbing the Group of Seven exhibit, I went back and revisited the works of Tom Thomson, spending a few more hours in detail study of his plein air works. I was completely under his spell. The economy of his brush work and his mastery of colour and design were exquisite. I learned so much looking at his 8.5"x10.5" works. I got so engrossed in them that I did not notice the gallery guard who was looking alarmingly at me because I was so close to the works. She finally came by to let me know that I was welcome to take notes but I would have to use a pencil rather than my pen. Oh that! OK. I switched... She felt better. Seriously though I do understand. You don't want an accident with ink on these delicate works. I couldn't forgive myself if that happened.

Lake in Autumn, 1916

Tom Thomson (Not Thompson) was an avid outdoors man. He was also a draftsman by profession. He spent his summers up north in Algonquin park and supplemented his stay up there by working as a guide. He introduced the Group of Seven to Algonquin and although he died before they were to form their group, he was, in many ways, their inspiration. His career as a plein air artist was very short, but between 1912 and 1917 he built a huge collection of panel paintings. These were small 8.5"x10.5" plywood panels painted using a hand held cigar box or pochade box. Tom never primed his panels. He actually used the colour of the wood to advantage. He placed his colour thick and with a certain hand. His plains were clear and his vertical and horizontal strokes are masterly.

Evening, Canoe Lake, 1915

Tom died on Canoe Lake in the park in a canoe accident. His short career leaves everyone wondering what he would have accomplished had he stayed with us a while longer.

I will be revisiting the McMichael again and again to study Tom's work and when I am done with him, I will move on to Arthur Lismer.


  1. Now I am under his spell too! Love these paintings.

  2. He was a valuable talent. Too bad he didn't hang around longer.

  3. Lovely paintings. Serene. Quiet. Cold and beautiful. Great piece of work.


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