(Claremont, Ontario, 1877 – Canoe Lake, Ontario, 1917)
The Jack Pine
Oil on canvas
127.9 x 139.8 cm
Purchased in 1918
National Gallery of Canada, 1519
Photo: National Gallery of Canada
The Jack Pine, by Tom Thomson, is an icon in the history of Canadian art. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, which promoted decorative motifs, Thomson rendered his subject in graceful arabesques. The tangled branches recall the natural obstacles the pioneering artist had to overcome to paint the untamed landscapes of northern Ontario. This romanticized vision of uninhabited land has been revisited by contemporary artists like Diana Thorneycroft, who introduces human activities into her parodies of Group of Seven paintings.
Tom Thomson sought to create a distinctly Canadian art through the representation of nature. His experience as an illustrator influenced the decorative style of his richly coloured works. The same year he completed The Jack Pine, Thomson drowned while on a canoe trip, probably searching for his next subject. His death in circumstances never fully explained has conferred mythical status on both him and his art. Though often associated with the Group of Seven, Thomson died three years before the official founding of the group in 1920.