Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tom Thomson: The West Wind (1916-17)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada -- it comes too early here, just as it comes too late in the U.S., but it's a wonderful time of the year regardless -- and though it's been unseasonably warm recently there is no doubt that fall is here and that winter is not far off. And, to me, perhaps no artist has captured the feel of this time of year quite like Tom Thomson did.

One of Canada greatest painters, Thomson lived from 1877 to 1917 and spent much of his time in northern Ontario, including, during the last several years of his life, Algonquin Park. As with some of the members of the famed Group of Seven, for which he was an inspiration and a precursor, his work reflected a profound appreciation for nature, and specifically for Canada's natural landscape, the landscape of trees and rivers and lakes and wild skies such as that of northern Ontario, the Canadian Shield, a beautifully stark landscape that is somehow essentially Canadian.

Thomson has been compared to Van Gogh and C├ęzanne, among others of the time, and rightly so. He was, like them, a Post-Impressionist -- thick paint, bright colours, assertive brushstrokes -- but also one influenced heavily by the Art Nouveau movement. The painting below is one of his most famous, a genuine masterpiece, a national treasure: The West Wind, painted during the winter of 1916-17, based on a sketch he had made the previous summer while working at Algonquin Park, and now in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario here in Toronto. It is, like the landscape of which it is a representation, essentially Canadian.

And it is the perfect painting to post this long weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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