As part of its series Masterpiece in Focus, the National Gallery of Canada
presents Tom Thomson: The Jack Pine and The West Wind. On view until January 4, 2015, this exhibition sponsored by Heffel Fine Art Auction House is organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The exhibition brings together two large canvases painted during Thomsons last winter: The Jack Pine and The West Wind. Both paintings have been recently restored and are now as close to their original appearance as possible. The Jack Pine underwent conservation treatment in late 2011 and The West Wind was treated more recently.
Both iconic images, the paintings seem to represent the grandeur and beauty of a uniquely Canadian environment: vast, elementally sublime, dazzling, isolated.
Thomson, who died by drowning in early July 1917, made small oil sketches outside in the open air, painting directly from the Canadian landscape. In the depths of winter, when Algonquin Park was too cold and inaccessible, he would work these sketches into larger paintings in his modest studio in Toronto.
Also presented in the exhibition are the small sketches from which the paintings were conceived, as well as other sketches made in that final year. These provide the viewer with a sense of the complexities of recording nature in paint, then transforming these impressions into monumental masterpieces.
Tom Thomson (1877 1917)
Tom Thomson's landscape paintings in oil created an enduring image of the Ontario North. His art both reflected and reinforced developing Canadian nationalism. Although he was associated with the Group of Seven, he was not a member. His early death helped make him an iconic figure.
After a brief business career in Seattle, Thomson became a Toronto commercial artist in 1905. He began painting in 1911, and (with the support of Dr. James MacCallum) became a full-time artist in 1913. Thomson first visited Algonquin Park in 1911, and worked there as a wilderness guide. He sketched mostly in the spring or summer, wintering in Toronto where he worked his sketches up into larger canvases. By late 1915, Thomson's approach to landscape painting was more imagination-based. He often sought some natural feature corresponding to his pre-existing ideas, or painted landscapes in his Toronto studio from memory. Thomson's design experience permeates his late canvases, which feature stylized tree branches and flat areas of strong colour (The Jack Pine, 1916-1917). The National Gallery of Canada owns many of Thomson's sketches, as well as the larger paintings he made from them. Thomson drowned in Canoe Lake in 1917.