Monday, 9 January 2012


I committed two cardinal sins of exhibition exploration recently; 1, I didn't book ahead, and 2, I went on the last day. Queue? I would have needed a million little fingers to have wound it around. Even so it was worth it to see Tom Thomson and The Canadian Seven at The Dulwich Picture Gallery.
The Canadian Seven were a group of early 20th century painters who stove to capture the wild, and sometimes harsh Canadian wilderness. Heavily influenced by Van Gogh and Post-Impressionism, these painters set out into the great outdoors to set the most unforgiving, remote, landscapes to canvas. They climbed mountains, scaled rivers and lakes in canoes, and even set their easels up at the Arctic.
They used a palate of off-sludge sands, bald beige, dead lilacs, pallid greens and ice blues, which were given intensity by swathes of azure blue, polar white and moments of primary yellow, deep orange and rustic rusts; while their use of bold brushstrokes created texture and depth to produce images that conveyed the desolate drama of their subject.

Paintings and sketches by Tom Thomson

I was most drawn to the paintings of the instigator of this movement Tom Thomson, especially his small sketches in oils. He even managed to make camping look good.
Thomson was the very embodiment of his art and male hardiness, living in a wooden shack, hunting and fishing his own food, and going off for days in his canoe to find isolated locations to paint. He has since gained a certain notoriety due to his mysterious untimely death in 1917. He disappeared one night on Canoe Lake only for his body to be washed up 8 days later. The fact that his body was exhumed after a very quick burial to be reburied in his birthplace of leith has given rise to speculation as to whether he fell or was he pushed.

3 pictures of Tom Thomson being Mr Outdoors.

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