Tom Thomson


Armand Cabrera
Tomas John Thomson was born near Claremont Ontario Canada August 5, 1877. One of ten children he was raised in a rural area on a farm where Thomson developed a love of the outdoors and nature.
Thomson tried different jobs during his twenties apprenticing as a machinist for a short time , attending business school and working as a commercial artist. He tried to enlist for the Boer war in 1899 but was refused because of his health.

It was in 1909 after securing a job as an engraver for Grip LTD that he began to paint in his spare time. The other employees included Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, Frank Charmichael and Fred Varley. These men would later form the Group of Seven along with AY Jackson, JEH Mac Donald and Lawren Harris. Though Thomson painted with these men he was never officially part of the Group of Seven.

Thomson continued to work as a commercial artist until 1913 when he decided to try and paint fulltime. He never realized his goal and found side work as a guide, fire fighter and ranger to help supplement his income. Thomson painted many outdoor sketches of the untamed northern wilderness. It is this raw and rugged aesthetic that he is best remembered for. His strong graphic design and bold, sometimes crude brushwork captured the spirit of the places he painted.

Thomson died unexpectedly, in 1917 at the age of 39, of a possible drowning accident. Since his death his art has come to stand as Canada’s first national art with little connection to Europe and its influences. The work of Thomson and the Group of Seven still has a powerful influence stylistically on Canada and its subsequent generations of artists who respond to its bold honesty.


The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson
David P. Silcox
Firefly Books 2003


The source of our art then is not in the achievements of other artists in other days and lands, although it has learned a great deal from these, our art is founded on a long and growing love and understanding of the North in an ever clearer experience of oneness with the informing spirit of the whole land and a strange brooding sense of Mother Nature fostering a new race and a new age… ~Lawren Harris

12 thoughts on “Tom Thomson

  1. Bold stuff. Never heard of this guy before but his design sense is strong. Thanks!

    Really thought those new paintings you posted last week were top shelf. Forgot to post a comment about it.

    Best wishes,

  2. I've run into enough reading questioning whether illustration, or graphic design arts should be considered fine art. I think these paintings prove we should all be jealous of those with that background, for what these skills bring to the table.

  3. Kev,

    Thanks for the kind words on my paintings.
    Thomson and the Group of Seven at their best, epitomize what painting from life is about an honest depiction of the experience. Thomson as a primarily self taught painter has little in the way of artistic heritage and stands out from the rest of the group because of it.

  4. Armand, Thanks so much for posting this. I forgot about Tom Thomson…I love his work. I first saw it in Ottawa at a great show at the national gallery years ago- its truly his own voice and really captures the wilderness.

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