Thomson, Tom – In the Northland
Type of Spiritual Experience
Tom Thomson - Catalogue Raisonné Researched and written by Joan Murray
From 1914 to 1917, Thomson followed a regular pattern in his work, travelling in the spring to Algonquin Park to camp on Canoe Lake or stay at a hotel called Mowat Lodge. He sketched there and worked as a guide, then returned to Toronto during the late autumn to develop his sketches into finished canvases. In the Park he continued to enjoy visits from friends such as Lawren Harris and Dr. MacCallum. These visits, and the camaraderie they encouraged, as well as the companionship he found through the Studio Building, reinforced the combination he had discovered the fall of 1914, of nature-based work with vivid, but accurate colour.
In the sketches he painted during the following three years, he continued to translate the tangle and confusion that is wilderness into happy colour motifs, using a rich paint vocabulary of dabs, dots, and graceful lines. ……. He cast his net widely over various subjects he found in Algonquin Park, embracing the phenomena of the sky from the gusts of wind that heaved the clouds and bent the trees, to the lightning of the thunderstorms, the northern lights, sunrise or sunset, twilight and moonlight. Another favourite subject was flowers, painted growing wild in nature as he found them. He also loved the evidence of the lumber trade, its dams or cribs or machinery, and the colour of the trees in the forest interior, particularly in autumn. Movement fascinated him, especially of water breaking loose in the spring. ………………..
Thomson’s gains over this period were mainly in terms of the sketch medium. He developed a subtlety of expression, using a brisk but delicate handling. In terms of the larger canvases, which he would have considered the important part of his production, an even more painterly result was arrived at from a stronger sense of design and a more integrated composition, reinforced by a greater sense of depth, enhanced colour and a richer, denser paint surface
Likely the sketches and the way he kept reinventing them in his work helped Thomson find himself as an artist. The process he followed developed his ability so that, in the large canvases – particularly during the last winter of his life – he attained a newfound monumentality.
A description of the experience