Tom Thomson was a famous Canadian painter who died nearly a century ago. His landscapes influenced the Group of Seven. Had he lived longer, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have become an official member and they would have been called the Group of Eight instead.
If you haven’t heard of this artist or the kinds of paintings he and his friends became famous for, the links above will tell you all about them.
His paintings are beautiful in an understated way. My favourite one from him is included below, although there is something I like about every piece of art I’ve seen from him. They remind me of what it feels like to stand outside on a freezing January morning, or a breezy May afternoon, or a hot and muggy August evening and feel everything that nature has in store for me on that particular day. The weather can’t always be tied up into neat packages, and neither can Tom’s work.
There are many things we know about the ordinary fabric of this artist’s daily life. His recent tweets have discussed everything from what he ate for specific meals to how he liked to spend his free time to what sketches he was working on in the last few weeks and months before he died. More than once I’ve been impressed by his descriptions of the small details of his life. Yesterday he mentioned eating boiled potatoes and stew, for example. I barely remember what I ate for dinner last week, so have those details of someone’s life from a hundred years ago is surprising and fascinating.
In the months I’ve been getting to know him, Tom has been kind, funny, and personable. There are times when he seems unsure of himself or when he doesn’t know what he should do next. Yet he still picks himself up the next day and tries again. These are the tweets I’ve come to appreciate from him the most because of how much they reveal about his personality and character. He’s the type of person I’d invite out to dinner if we were living in the same century.
Exactly how he died is a matter of debate. We know he was alone at Canoe Lake and that his empty canoe surfaced days before anyone found his body in the water. Did he have some kind of medical emergency that lead to him falling into the lake and drowning? Did his canoe accidentally tip over or bump into something submerged in the water, leaving him to drown before he could be saved? Did he stumble across someone who was doing something illegal and who didn’t want any witnesses of their crime?
There are so many different possibilities. I’ve mulled over many of them as I read this painter’s latest tweets and wished there was a way to reach back through the decades and save him.
If only every piece of history could be this relatable and memorable.
Until that happens, you should be following Tom Thomson. I’d love to hear what you think of his paintings as well as what your theories are about how he died.