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LOT 143

Thomas John (Tom) Thomson
1877 - 1917

Clouds and Sky
oil on board, 1913
on verso inscribed by Frank Johnston "From Tom Thomson, traded for one of my own, Aug. 14/1914"
5 7/8 x 8 1/2 in 14.9 x 21.6 cm

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000

Sold for: $229,250

Preview at:

Frank Hans Johnston, Toronto, 1914
By descent to his son Paul Rodrick Johnston
McCready Galleries, Toronto
Private Collection, Ontario
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, May 26, 2010, lot 180
Private Collection, Vancouver

J.M. MacCallum, “Tom Thomson: Painter of the North,” Canadian Magazine 50, March 1918, page 376
A.Y. Jackson, foreword, Catalogue of an Exhibition of Paintings by the Late Tom Thomson, The Arts Club, 1919

This exemplary early work by Tom Thomson is proof of the quality of his production from the beginning of his life as a professional artist. Having worked in commercial art for some years, he was well aware of the power of colour and simplicity of design, and in Clouds and Sky this knowledge is displayed, as well as his ability to present landscape freshly.
The scene depicts a distant view of a landscape that recalls Thomson’s Near Owen Sound of November 1911, in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, but the increase in boldness in his handling (note the almost patchy way Thomson has handled the paint) suggests a later date of 1913. The work is a subtle tonal study, painted with a relatively small brush, but showing more confidence and daring than earlier work. Thomson’s sensitivity to colour appears in the shades of grey, pink and white with which he painted the clouds, and in the rich colours of the foreground. That the scene is of late summer or early fall is suggested by the rich golds and touches of red that appear.
By 1912, Thomson had visited Algonquin Park, which over the next few years would become his main painting base, and it is likely that he made this sketch there. While in Algonquin, Thomson frequently seemed to emphasize the shapes of the wiry trees, often pine trees or birches, yet here the trees look more generalized. Still, the distant view of a far shore in a horizontal composition does suggest A.Y. Jackson’s record of his impressions of Thomson’s sketches from 1913 - as he stated, “He had a few dozen sketches that were not remarkable except that they showed a great knowledge of the country and were very faithful and painstaking…The country in them seemed always to be viewed extensively. There were no gay little rapids or wood interiors or patterned rocks, but only the opposite shores of lakes, far hills or wide stretches of country.” The way Thomson has suggested the “far hills,” as Jackson called them, painting them in blue, recalls other works from the summer or fall of 1913. The time is twilight, and here Thomson has evoked the darkening atmosphere of evening, giving the work a luminous quality that belies its small size.
Group of Seven patron Dr. J.M. MacCallum, who looked at the sketches Thomson had painted in the Mississagi Forest Reserve in 1912, wrote that he was struck by their “truthfulness, their feeling and their sympathy with the grim, fascinating northland.” His words perceptively describe Thomson’s work in sketches such as Clouds and Sky.
On the verso is a rough sketch of a landscape, upside down from the viewpoint of the front of the sketch, and an inscription by Frank Hans Johnston. Possibly Thomson showed this sketch to Johnston for his opinion, hence the trade of works between the two. This “trading” between artists was a common feature of the period – as it is today.
We thank Joan Murray for contributing the above essay, February 2010.
This work is included in the Tom Thomson catalogue raisonné, catalogue #1913.38, researched and written by Joan Murray, and can be viewed at http://tom thomsoncatalogue.org/catalogue/entry.php?id=164.

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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