Lot # 137
Spring 2009 - 2nd Session Live auction
Thomas John (Tom) Thomson
OSA 1877 - 1917 Canadian
Birches and Cedar, Fall
oil on panel fall 1915
embossed with the estate stamp and on verso titled, inscribed "H, Property of Harkness, TT 74, 1st. Class, 87 M. Thomson, J & H" and stamped with the estate stamp
8 1/2 x 10 1/2 in 21.6 x 26.7cm
Estate of the Artist
Elizabeth Thomson Harkness, Annan and Owen Sound
Mellors Galleries, Toronto
Laing Galleries, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Harold Town and David P. Silcox, Tom Thomson: The Silence and the Storm, 1977, titled as Cedars and Pines, reproduced page 162
Dennis Reid, editor, Tom Thomson, Art Gallery of Ontario / National Gallery of Canada, 2002, essay by Robert Stacey, page 62
David P. Silcox, The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, 2003, a similar fall 1915 work entitled Autumn Foliage, in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, reproduced page 266
Tom Thomson was a true man of the wilderness. Restless and somewhat out of place in the city, he was most at ease in his beloved Ontario woods. Here, considered a local, he was relaxed and completely sure of himself in his territory. Thomson loved the rapid changes of colour in the autumn forest and was obsessed with capturing the wild wonder of the annual fall show in his small oil panels. His works are often startling in their colour and energy, and his frequent use of a very close-up vantage point is a testament to his relaxed relationship with the forest - he is right in it, not distanced from it.
Thomsonís influence on the painters who would later come together to form the Group of Seven was marked. His direct involvement in nature, by way of choosing to paint it in such an intimate way, was further explored by J.E.H. MacDonald and Lawren Harris in particular, both of whom, but in their very different ways, had an extremely close relationship with the place they were painting. Thomson was the ambassador of the silent woods, giving us snapshots of the waning days, capturing in his works leaves just before they fell, mud just before it froze and the first flakes of snow before they hit the ground and began to melt. He was a part of it, as we are made to feel a part of the woods when brought face to face with his rugged and immediate works.
Birches and Cedar, Fall depicts one vivid moment in the ever-changing panorama of fall colour that nature presents, stilled for us by Thomsonís brush. As the winds blew and the colours changed, Thomson responded in paint and the panels were completed. Works such as this are a record of the colour wheel of fall as it rolls from green to yellow to orange and on into red. Large daubs of golden yellow convey the colour of the birch leaves against the green boughs of the cedars, which are painted in longer strokes and with a consistent vertical repetition that moves through the work at a slightly left-leaning windblown angle. The water is moving too, whether it is blown by the wind or is the edge of a moving river or stream. The thin vertical lines of white are the papery trunks of the birch trees, their branches blown back to reveal them to us.
Thomsonís attention to seemingly insignificant places, such as the shoreline in Birches and Cedar, Fall, further attests to his particular affinity for the woods. A restless individual who had trouble finding his path in life, he was not always drawn to the big expansive scene. He might have seen, in these out-of-the-way snapshots of nature, a reflection of his own personality. As he was most at ease in simple circumstances and most at home in his woodsmanís clothes, so too are the subjects of his panels simple scenes without pretense, at home in their autumn clothes.
After Thomsonís sudden death on Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park in 1917, MacDonald described his unique relationship with nature poetically in the inscription he wrote for Thomsonís memorial cairn:
He lived humbly but passionately with the wild
it made him brother to all untamed things of nature
it drew him apart and revealed itself wonderfully to him
it sent him out from the woods
only to show these revelations through his art
and it took him to itself at last
This work will be included in Joan Murray's forthcoming catalogue raisonnť on the artist's work.
$1,404,000 CAD (including Buyer's Premium)
All prices are in Canadian Dollars.
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