BlogApril 4, 2020

Early Spring, Algonquin Evening by Tom Thomson

A Feature of The Collection of Mitzi and Mel Dobrin

Tom Thomson’s oil sketches were almost all painted in front of the motif and worked up into canvases during the winter in Toronto. The change of scale between the small sketch and large canvas posed new challenges and as sketches fed his canvases, the painting of the canvases also brought changes to his sketches.A new formality first appears in his oil sketches of 1916 together with a refinement of touch and paint application. Colour is cooler and more restrained.Over the winter of 1916-1917 Thomson painted some of his most famous canvases, including The Jack Pine in the National Gallery of Canada. A very formal composition, the structure is defined by the vertical trunk of the jack pine and the horizontal bands of colour with which he painted the sky and water. 

 

Tom Thomson 1877-1917
Early Spring, Algonquin Park, Spring 1917
Oil on board
8 1/4 x 10 1/2 in (21 x 26.7 cm)

 

A similar clarity and almost classical formality characterize a number of Thomson’s sketches painted in the spring of 1917. The overcast sky determines the low-keyed tonality of Early Spring, Algonquin Park. The foreground snow is painted with wide, horizontal strokes of white and is crowned by the vertical, brown-leafed, young birches and black spruce. An opening to the snow-covered ice in the middle ground leads to the intense blue hills of the far shore, recalling the blue hills across the lake in The Jack Pine. Though thickly painted, the bare wood at the edges of the colour areas allows the forms to breath. There is a wonderful stillness and maturity in this superb sketch, painted in the spring before Thomson’s premature death in the summer of 1917.


This painting was acquired by Vincent and Alice Massey from the artist’s estate through Dr. James MacCallum in early 1918.  The Masseys gave it to Alice Massey’s parents Sir George and Lady Parkin and it was bequeathed to their son Raleigh Parkin on the death of Mrs. George Parkin in 1931.

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