In the foreground, a scraggy evergreen rises up in silhouette, slightly to the right of centre. In the receding grounds, a lake and mountains executed in broad, flat brushstrokes appear in twilight. The vast sky is tinted in shades of blue, orange and green.

Tom Thomson

(Claremont, Ontario, 1877 – Canoe Lake, Ontario, 1917)

 

The Jack Pine

1916-1917

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.

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