In spring 1918, Lawren Harris and J.E.H. MacDonald, two members of the soon-to-be-formed Group of Seven, met in the Studio Building in Toronto. Their friend Tom Thomson had died the year before, and they determined to establish him as one of Canada’s great artists. Most of his paintings and sketches were stacked up in the studio. They would select the best, mark their comments on the back of these works and make sure they got into Canada’s most prestigious public and private collections.
These two great artists had been Thomson’s mentors and friends, teaching him about current art movements and coaching him in painting techniques. The pupil would become the master—and Harris and MacDonald, together with A.Y. Jackson, wanted to be sure that he would be recognized and remembered.
Art historian Joan Murray has constructed a beautiful, intimate treasury of Thomson’s “best paintings,” as chosen by these artist friends and later major collectors, and has written an insightful commentary on each one. Knowing the story that lies behind Thomson’s great works helps us to view these paintings with new insight and appreciation. We understand what makes these works special.