Tom Thomson

Posted by Elizabeth Goodman on 18th May 2019

Tom Thomson

Tom Thomson was an influential Canadian artist of the 20th century. Born in Ontario, this painter would have such an influence over others, he is credited with influencing the development of the "Group of Seven," a collection of his fans as it were. He was so influential in its development, often times he is regarded as being an original member of this group, when in fact he predeceased its official organization. As a young boy in Ontario, at the age of 20 he entered into a machine apprenticeship at an iron foundry. Chronic tardiness, perhaps loosely considered the hallmark of disenchantment, likely led to moving on from this position.

Mr. Thomson continued trying to find his path in life by attempting to enlist to fight in the Second Boer War, but was turned down due to a medical condition. After being turned down by the Canadian Expeditionary Force, he worked as a fire ranger in Algonquin Park. He went on to become a business student, in both Ontario, and later at a school his brother started in Seattle, Washington. After seven years of finding himself, Tom Thomson finally discovered his calling when he joined Grip Ltd., which was an artistic design firm. The Group of Seven original members also worked at this firm with this self-taught artist.

Finally by 1912, this once young toiler in sketching and drawing, he started to take painting seriously. Much of his art were scenes of nature largely inspired by his time as a ranger in Algonquin Park. His eventual paintings were sketches at the outset. They would be turned into oil paintings in the confines of an old utility shack on the grounds of an artist enclave where he would produce his work. Warmed by just a wood-burning stove in this Rosedale, Toronto, location, Mr. Thomson created great works that would fetch him fame, but not in time for him to enjoy it. Sponsored by a Toronto physician, James MacCallum, he was able to make the costly transition into oils, which was normally prohibitive for struggling, and often times starving, artists. Under this sponsorship, he created works that he is still lauded for today.

His story is no different than that of thousands of acclaimed artists relative to posthumous recognition for a job well-done. His creative peak is said to have been between 1914 and 1917. Unfortunately most likely on a trip to invoke inspiration and enjoy the natural beauty of Algonquin Park, paradoxically Mr. Thomson met his death in that place that was such a catalyst for his work. The circumstances surrounding his death were questionable, but it is largely held he died on a canoeing trip as his body was fished out of the lake some eight days after disappearance. Blodwen Davies would later publish an exploration into Thomson's death, casting doubt on the decision on rule his death a drowning. Surely questions about the true nature of his expiration linger, but there is absolutely no question about his enormous talent, or the prolific gifts he left to the world.

View Tom Thomson Gallery