In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Fact for the Day | Main | What It Means When They Move Their Lips »

November 25, 2008

Tom Thompson of Canada

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Last month, in this post about Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada I mentioned that I visited it beause I wanted to see paintings by the Group of Seven.

They, and some associated artists, are well known in Canada but all but invisible "south of the line." Not entirely invisible, because I've spotted copies of this book at some of the better museum stores here in the States. I first became aware of them two or three years ago when browsing bookstores in Victoria, BC.

The Group of Seven was an association of artists who painted scenes of the wilds of the Canadian Shield; the Wikipedia entry can be found here.

The artist who sparkplugged the Seven was Tom Thompson, who never was part of the group because he died before the founding. In 1917 he set out in a canoe while in the wilderness and a week later his body was found. The consensus is that he drowned accidently. But as is the case regarding deaths of many famous people, there is a conspiracy theory holding that he was done in.


Tom Thompson

Regardless, in his short -- approximately five-year -- career in fine arts, he produced a number of impressive paintings. His large ones are bright and energetic, features that are ill-conveyed by reproductions in books. So to appreciate Thompson, by all means go to Ottawa and the National Gallery to view some of his best work. Thompson paintings can be found elsewhere in Canada, if Ottawa isn't convenient for you.

Below are examples of Thompson's paintings.


Northern River

In the Northland

Decorative Landscape Birches - 1915

Jack Pine - 1916

Birch Grove - 1915-16

The Pool



posted by Donald at November 25, 2008


Very similar to Ivan Bilibin (1900's).

Posted by: Tatyana on November 25, 2008 11:33 AM

That's some seriously beautiful use of form and color--I can imagine how overwhelming they might look on a large canvas. I doubt that I ever would have heard of him otherwise, thanks!

Posted by: Steve on November 25, 2008 11:48 AM

I'd heard of him, because of his untimely (and somewhat mysterious) death. Canadians know who he is (he's referenced in things like song lyrics from the Canadian rock group The Tragically Hip), but Americans certainly don't.

And I'd never seen any of his paintings, but I have to say, I'm very impressed by them. From what I've read, he was largely self-taught!

Posted by: Derek Lowe on November 25, 2008 12:52 PM

Yes, thank you. That would be a very worthwhile visit, seeing these in person.

Posted by: bridget on November 25, 2008 3:55 PM

Splendid! Thanks, DP.

Posted by: dearieme on November 25, 2008 6:20 PM

Kee-raist, when's your book on these artists gonna come out Donald? I'll pre-order, especially if it has color plates. This is like the third guy I know that you've introduced me to that I must get poster prints of.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on November 25, 2008 7:02 PM

Spike -- Thank you. I've drafted some sample chapters and am waiting till after the first of the year (when I'm hoping the financial crisis calms) before shopping it to publishers.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on November 25, 2008 8:37 PM

I like these a lot, and I second Spike's sentiment.

Posted by: JV on November 25, 2008 9:17 PM

We Canadians are indeed very proud of the Group of Seven, because, regardless of what Old World types may think (and from what I've heard, they don't think much of their style, from those I know), they represent a genuine departure from European styles, and have articulated a genuine North American artistic vision, tied to OUR circumstances here, influenced by our wilderness, quite different as it is from the tamed countryside of the Old World.

Posted by: Will S. on November 25, 2008 11:04 PM

Gorgeous posting.

Some more for fans of Canadian art. Friedrich von B wrote about the Group of Seven. (No idea why the typography in FvB's piece has gone a little awry, but it's a meaty and rewarding posting.) I wrote about David Milne, who was friendly with the Group.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 25, 2008 11:32 PM

Thompson's work is amazingly close to Mondrian's early landscapes, mainly tree grids, before he went totally abstract.

The two may very well have known nothing of each other but clearly there was something in the air at that time.

Posted by: ricpic on November 26, 2008 11:11 AM

Beautiful. But nothing like Ivan Bilibin, nyet.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on November 28, 2008 12:43 AM

I loves me my Sister Wolf. I didn't get the connection either.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 28, 2008 1:29 PM

Went to my bookcase, to refresh my memory of Bilibin; found mentions of him in two books ("World Of Art" and Russian Theatrical Designs in early 20th century). They are not online, unfortunately - but other sources are; I wrote a post about him.
I'm grateful to you, Donald, for making me spent 3 hours looking at beautiful things, to remind myself - what really matters.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 28, 2008 8:37 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?