Thomas John "Tom" Thomson was an influential Canadian artist of the early 20th century. He directly influenced a group of Canadian painters that would come to be known as the Group of Seven, and though he died before they formally formed, he is sometimes incorrectly credited as being a member of the group itself. Thomson died under mysterious circumstances, which added to his mystique.More ...
Thomas John "Tom" Thomson (August 5, 1877 – July 8, 1917) was a Canadian artist of the early 20th century. He was inextricably linked with the Group of Seven, a group of Canadian painters. Though they did not formally join until after his death, he is often considered an unofficial member with his art usually being exhibited next to the rest of the group's.
Despite his short career, Thomson's work has had a great influence on Canadian art. Paintings like The Jack Pine (1916–17) and The West Wind (1916–17) have taken a prominent place in the culture of Canada and are some of the country's most famous pieces of art.
The tragic circumstances of Thomson's drowning on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park has entered into the popular imagination. The circumstances surrounding his death have been of particular interest to many, with unsubstantiated rumours that he was murdered or committed suicide becoming common and persisting in the years since his death.
Thomas John "Tom" Thomson was born on August 5, 1877 in Claremont, Ontario, Canada. He grew up in a large family, the sixth of John and Margaret Thomson's ten children. Thomson was raised in Leith, Ontario, near Owen Sound, in the Municipality of Meaford. Thomson and his siblings enjoyed both drawing and painting, though he did not immediately display any major talents. He was eventually taken out of school due to an unknown respiratory problem, giving him free time to explore the woods near his home and develop an appreciation for nature.
In 1899, he entered a machine shop apprenticeship at an iron foundry owned by William Kennedy, a close friend of his father, but left only eight months later. Also in 1899, he volunteered to fight in the Second Boer War, but was turned down because of a medical condition.
In 1901, Thomson enrolled in a business college in Chatham, Ontario but dropped out eight months later to join his older brother, George Thomson. George and a cousin had established the Acme Business School, operating out of Seattle. In Seattle, Thomson worked briefly as an elevator operator at the Diller Hotel. By 1902, two more of Thomson's brothers, Ralph and Henry, had moved west to join the family's new school.
After studying at the business school for only around six months, Thomson was hired at Maring & Ladd as a pen artist, draftsman and etcher. He mainly produced business cards, brochures and posters. Having previously learned calligraphy, he specialized in lettering, drawing and painting.
He eventually moved on to a local engraving company. Despite the fact that he was being paid well, he left by the end of 1904, quickly returning to Leith. Thomson's quick move was possibly due to a rejected marriage proposal following his brief summer romance with Alice Elinor Lambert.
Thomson moved to Toronto in the summer of 1905. His first job upon his return was at a photo-engraving firm, Legg Brothers. He spent his free time reading poetry, as well as going to concerts, the theatre and sporting events. Friends described him during this time as "periodically erratic and sensitive, with fits of unreasonable despondency."
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