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Tom (Thomas John) Thomson 1877 - 1917 Canadian oil
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Tom (Thomas John) Thomson 1877 - 1917 Canadian oil on panel Northern Lights A07F-E04568-06 8 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches 21.6 x 26.7 centimeters on verso dated Spring 1917 on the artist's label and inscribed in graphite No. 63 Mrs. Harkness, #1665 Northern Lights, Tom Thomson, 43, 2; in ink: A.M.; in black crayon, sketch #4 Literature:Albert H. Robson, Tom Thomson, 1937, reproduced page 25 G.C. McInnes, "Tom Thomson", New World Illustrated no. 1, 1940, reproduced Audrey Saunders, Algonquin Story, 1947 R.H. Hubbard, Tom Thomson, The Gallery of Canadian Art, 1962, reproduced page 12, plate #28 W. Petrie, Keoeeit: The Story of the Aurora Borealis, 1963, reproduced cover Ottelyn Addison and Elizabeth Harwood, Tom Thomson: The Algonquin Years, 1969, pages 61 and 62, reproduced page 67 William T. Little, The Tom Thomson Mystery, 1970, pages 27 and 198 Peter Mellen, The Group of Seven, 1970, reproduced page 54 Joan Murray, The Art of Tom Thomson, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1971, listed page 96 and reproduced page 90 Harold Town and David P. Silcox, Tom Thomson: The Silence and the Storm, 1977, reproduced page 173 Joan Murray, Tom Thomson: The Last Spring, 1994, reproduced page 50 Charlie Hill, Tom Thomson, National Gallery of Canada, 2002, pages 141 and 354, reproduced page 289 Provenance:Estate of the Artist George Thomson, Owen Sound Mellors Fine Arts, Toronto Private Collection, Ontario, acquired from the above in 1939 Exhibited:Art Gallery of Toronto, Horatio Walker and Tom Thomson, January 1941 National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Paintings from Ottawa Collections, April 1959 National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 300 Years of Canadian Art, May - September 1967, catalogue #199 Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, The Art of Tom Thomson, October 30 - December 12, 1971, traveling in 1972 to the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Confederation Art Gallery and Museum, Charlottetown, catalogue #123 Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Tom Thomson: The Last Spring, May 4, 1995 - January 7, 1996, traveling from 1996 - 1997 to the McCord Museum of Canadian History, Montreal, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, and McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, catalogue #23 National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Tom Thomson, June 7, 2002 - December 8, 2003, catalogue #133 We know of five sketches by Tom Thomson of the Northern Lights, each of which has its own merits, but this exceptional sketch, as revealed in its publication and exhibition history, has long been regarded as one of Thomson's finest works. Done in the spring of 1917, it is likely this sketch that was later described by Algonquin Park ranger Mark Robinson: "The temperature had dropped sharply and the sky was brilliant with colour. Thomson spent the early part of the evening at Robinson's shelter house, watching the sky and coming in at intervals to warm himself by the fire. About midnight he got his paints from Mowat Lodge and went down to Lowrie Dickson's cabin where he would have a better foreground for his sketch. He lit a fire in the stove and set to work. The painting was done by lamplight, between midnight and eight in the morning." Hill has suggested that it is more likely that this, and other nocturnes, were painted away from the motif or from memory. While it is intriguing to imagine Thomson shivering as he sought to capture the transient effects of the aurora, it is, in fact, unlikely that he could have even seen them for as long as eight hours at a stretch. Whatever the circumstances of making this sketch there is little doubt that it is of superb quality, and captures vividly and immediately the wonder and power of the Northern Lights. The composition is elegantly simple - a barely delineated foreground animated by patches of phosphorescent blue snow, a hillside in the middle ground more darkly silhouetted against the more distant mountain which is, in turn, haloed by the aurora borealis. Thomson has placed the bulk of the Northern Lights on the right side of his composition, but the whole mountain is haloed and paler sheets of light also appear on the left side of the work. At first glance it is essentially a blue and black composition with some lighter elements but a closer examination reveals just how rich Thomson's palette was - the touches of pink and the yellowish-white of the aurora itself are not colours that simply came out a tube but have been carefully mixed to be just strong enough to animate the image, but not too strong. The clear night sky is indeed "brilliant with colour." Thomson's decision, as reported by Robinson, to move himself along the lake to Dickson's cabin reveals just how carefully he considered his composition. Far from being quickly dashed off with little consideration of the overall design, Thomson has very carefully placed the silhouetted trees at both sides of the composition. They have a variety of purposes within the work, not the least of which is to provide an echo of the upward movement of the aurora itself. They also provide a sense of the scale of this enormous landscape, and by their very stasis suggest the moving quality of the aurora which seems to shoot up from behind the distant mountain as if reaching for the stars themselves. One can easily see the magic of this subject and feel the wonder that Thomson, and many others, have felt at this natural phenomenon. It takes, however, an artist of exceptional genius to capture this ineffable aspect of nature so vividly and completely. This work will be included in Joan Murray's forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist's work. E750000-950000
CA
CA
CA

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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