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An Eye for Wilderness

Added on 16 December 2015


Tom Thomson (1877-1917)

The garden is coated in a heavy frost this morning. At this time of year I often take a look at Tom Thomson’s remarkable landscape paintings. Thomson was an extremely influential Canadian painter whose direct approach to painting landscape led to some of the most arresting small landscape studies you are ever likely to see.

Thomson first visited Algonquin National Park in 1911. Over the next five years until his death in 1917 he was to make numerous camping trips to the area where he painted the desolate landscape he found there at first hand. Of the many paintings he produced there I much prefer his small portable studies which have a sureness of touch and a glorious feel for colour harmony and sense of the essence of things. A good place to start is to look at his 2 small studies ‘Winter in the Woods’ (1916) and ‘Northern Lights’ (1916 or 1917) both in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ontario.

Tom Thomson had a profound influence on a group of Canadian painters known as the ‘Group of Seven’ who continued his style of plein air painting to great effect. The renowned contemporary Scottish painter Peter Doig also spent his childhood in Canada and I think much of his image making owes a huge debt to Thomson’s vision.

Enjoy! Wishing you all a Very Happy Christmas and a Good New Year,




Exhibition Catalogue, 'Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven', 2011, London, Philip Wilson Publishers. The exhibition organised by Dulwich Picture Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada. ISBN Hardback: 978-0-85667-708-3; ISBN Paperback: 978-0-85667-686-4.

Tom Thomson at the National Gallery of Canada website.