Tom Thomson

Tom Thomson – the Ontario Group of Seven

Tom Thomson was one of Canada’s most influential painters of the 20th-century. Born in 1877, he came from a farming family and worked as a pen artist for engraving companies before he started painting at the age of 25.  Tom was inspired by the wild landscapes and vivid colours of the Algonquin National Park in Ontario.  His paintings were different from his contemporaries in that he used thick layers of paint to bring out the light and variety of colours in the landscapes.  He worked through the winter in Toronto to save enough money to head north as soon as the ice broke in the rivers and lakes.  He spent the summers exploring and painting the wilderness, living simply by fishing and hunting and canoeing around the network of rivers and lakes in the Algonquin and the northern shores of Lake Ontario.  If anyone expressed admiration for a painting he would immediately gift it to them in a fit of generosity.  He never appreciated his own work, but his reputation grew and he spearheaded a new way of painting the Canadian landscapes which is reflected in the work of the famous Group of Seven artists, of which he was a forerunner. 

In his short life he produced over 400 works of art on canvas, paper and wood. Tom Thomson, was last seen alive around mid-day, July 8, 1917, when setting out alone across Canoe Lake to begin a fishing trip.  It is not known what happened to him on this trip, his empty canoes was discovered drifting on the lake and his body found a week later.  In addition it is not known where he is buried, a veil of mystery hangs over his end.  He was only 39 years old and becoming world famous at the time.  He had one failed love affair with writer Alice Elinor Lambert that cast a shadow over his life, although this was compensated by his love of nature.  Thomson made an important contribution to art and inspired other Canadian artists to explore their environment with a fresh approach.