Tom Thomson

"Thomson painted not merely to paint, but because his nature compelled him to paint - because he had a message. The north country enthralled him, body and soul. He began to paint that he might express the emotions the country inspired in him; all the moods and passions, all the sombreness and all the glory of colour, were so felt that they demanded from him pictorial expression. He never gave utterance in words to his feelings of the glories of nature. Words were not his instruments of expression - colour was the only medium open to him. Of all Canadian artists he was, I believe, the greatest colourist. His aims were truthfulness and beauty - beauty of colour, of feeling, and of emotion. Yet to him, his most beautiful sketches were only paint. He placed no value on them. All he wanted was more paint, so that the could paint others. He enjoyed appreciation of his work; criticism of his methods he welcomed, but its truthfulness was unassailable, for he had seen it. He never painted anything that he had not seen." (1) Tom Thomson was born near Claremont, Ontario and grew up in Leith, near Owen Sound. After moving to Toronto his early career was spent as a commercial artist at Grip Ltd., the commercial design firm where he first met MacDonald, Harris, Jackson, Lismer and others. By 1911, Thomson was making regular sketching trips to areas north of Toronto and in 1912 he made the first of many trips to Algonquin Park. As well as being an artist, Thomson was an avid outdoorsman and the Park soon became his favourite place to paint. His enthusiasm for its quiet, untouched landscape with its changing moods and bright fall colours inspired other artists to explore the region. After 1914, Thomson spent most of his time painting in Algonquin, except during the coldest winter months. It was during this period that he produced the bulk of his paintings of this rugged northern landscape. Thomson's brief but prolific career as an artist came to a premature end when he drowned in Canoe Lake in 1917, just three years before the Group of Seven held their first exhibition. His artistic achievement was to remain an inspirational force to other Group members.

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Tom Thomson
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