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Please welcome a Guest post from my very own Little Guy!

Tom Thomson


This summer, I took Little Guy to an art gallery to (hopefully) see some paintings by Tom Thomson because Little Guy had written 2 school papers on the artist and his contributions to Canada’s identity through art. Not only did we see an exhibit of Tom Thomson, we also saw Lawren Harris (Group of Seven) and the Group of Seven Guitar Project. Unbeknownst to us, the gallery also owns Tom Thomson’s cabin. I think it was the highlight of Little Guy’s trip!

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Thomas John Thomson, or Tom Thomson, was an important Canadian artist. Tom inspired many, including a number of those in the famous Group of Seven, who were his friends. Tom, because of his unique Canadian landscapes, is considered a significant person to Canada because he shaped the way people thought about Canada through his art.

The Life of Tom Thomson

Tom Thomson was born in Claremont, Ontario on August 5, 1877 from Scottish-Canadian stock. He Tom died a mysterious death at age. Tom died a mysterious death at age 39, in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario on July 8, 1917.

Tom’s parents were Margaret Matheson and John Thomson. Tom’s family moved to Leith two months after he was born, a place near Owen Sound. Tom was the sixth of ten children in his family and grew up on Rose Hill farm.

Tom liked to draw and fish, and he grew up with an appreciation for music and literature. Tom’s father was a naturalist. Tom went to school locally with his nine other siblings.

In 1899, Tom tried to enlist in the army to fight in the Boer War in Africa, but he was turned away, so he moved to Seattle to study at the Acme Business College, which his brother co-owned. After college, he worked as a graphic designer, then he moved to Toronto to work as an engraver in a big company, but he hated being indoors. Then. he got a job as a designer at the Grip Limited. He made friends there and they often spent Sundays sketching together in the country. They taught him more about mixing oil paints and drawing landscapes using lines. He also took courses at what is now the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto.

Tom Thomson 3Dr. James McCallum loved the outdoors and was a landscape art collector. He learned about Tom from Lawren Harris and James MacDonald. He offered to pay Thomson’s expenses for a year which allowed Thomson to quit his job and become a professional painter. Dr McCallum also introduced Tom to A.Y. Jackson.

In 1912, Tom went camping and canoeing at Algonquin Park went with some friends, a suggestion from his friend, Tom McLean. Tom fell in love with the wilderness in Canoe Lake. They paddled from Canoe Lake to Tea Lake and camped near a dam where the logs ran through.

By 1913, Tom’s friends, including Lawren Harris, James MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, and A.Y. Jackson (part of Group of 7), were discussing how to promote national art for Canada. Canada had become a new nation in 1867 and the artists wanted to celebrate the country’s natural features and grow pride in Canada.

Tom Thomson 2

Tom died on in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario on July 8, 1917. By this time, he was living there 3 seasons of the year; he spent winters in Toronto. Tom had gone out fishing and his empty canoe was discovered the next day. His body was found a few days later. He was buried in the Canoe Lake cemetery, but the cause of his death remains a mystery. Some believed he was murdered, while others believe he drowned. His family had his body exhumed and buried in Leith, but in 1956 some men dug up a body in Tom Thomson’s grave. Some believe his body was never sent to Leith. The skull was last examined by some forensic experts in 2010 and they believe that it does belong to Tom Thomson, but they can’t do any more tests unless the family agrees. The mystery of his death helped him remain popular as an artist. Even the group Tragically Hip have written a song about Tom’s fiancee, Winnifred Trainor.

Tom’s Art

Tom developed a practice for making major paintings, and used it. Once, on his third trip, Tom took a camera but he quickly ran out of film. Tom usually sketched the landscape, and would paint it later when he had more time and supplies. He used bold colours and often used the perspective of sitting in a canoe.

Part of Tom’s style of art, was mixing colours to create new colours, and certain brush strokes too. Tom’s style of art made his artwork very recognizable. Tom’s art was also often non-traditional and bold, painting very unique scenes from Canada. He developed his own unique style that quickly became well recognized. Some of his famous paintings are The West Wind (1917) (shown left) and Jack Pine (1916-1917) (shown right).


It was shortly after his death, that his friends joined together to become the famous Group of Seven. They focused on showing Canada’s rugged northern wilderness. Currently in 2017, there are eleven people inside of The Group of Seven. A public school ( in Ontario ) and an art museum, ( in Owen Sound, ) were named after Tom Thomson in memory of him.

Take everything as it comes; the wave passes, deal with the next one. – Tom Thomson

Tom succeeded in becoming a Canadian legend for his art style. His artwork has inspired many artists. In 1990, a group of artists created postage to honour Tom Thomson. Tom’s friends in the Group of Seven, were, and still are, the most famous Canadian artist group. Tom accomplished in helping to create the group of seven. Tom is an important Canadian artist, because of his creativity, and influence on how others now see Canada.

Painting photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Thomson