J. E. H. MacDonald, Letter to T. J. Harkness, Jan. 24, 1920
Studio Bldg. Severn St. [illegible] Oct.24:20
OCT 26 1920
Chill November, Tom Thomson, 1916, Gallery Lambton, Oil on canvas, 36" x 42"/91.4 cm x 106.7 cm. Gift of the Sarnia Women's Conservation Art Association, 1956.
Dear Mr. Harkness: –
We are returning to you from the building here, a number of sketches which you sent to Dr. MacCallum for Tom’s exhibition. As Mr. Jackson has packed them I cannot say exactly what they are, but have no doubt that you will find them complete. We will be glad to do anything you may recommend in connection with the remainder of the sketches here. When looking over them the other day it seemed as though it would be wise to get one or two small cases, & list & pack the sketches carefully & store them away. They have a tendency to get in disorder as they are & cannot easily be sorted or traced, & though we have occasional enquiries from people who think of buying, it would probably be well to put the sketches away & keep the number intact for a while. You might let us know how you feel about this, & we shall be glad to do whatever you may wish, either by storing them more definitely here or by sending them up to you or whatever else you think wise. In any case, of course, we would like to keep a small selected number of the sketches here for our own pleasure.
We are doing what we can to bring Tom’s larger paintings before the public & so have included a
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few of them in an exhibition which we are sending to a few galleries in the U. S. There are six of us exhibiting, and the first show will be held in Worcester, Mass. early in November. None of the pictures are to be sold. They are all sent in bond, but sales may result, & anyway the cause will be helped. All the pictures are well insured, and will be carefully handled by experts throughout. The four of Tom’s that we sent are The West Wind and three smaller ones – “Birches”, “Early Spring” — “Golden Autumn”. Our own pictures are insured for half their valuation & we thought of getting George to insure Tom’s at their full value on the other side.
And speaking of insurance, would it not be well to put some on Tom’s pictures that are in the building here. They may be insured but I do not remember having heard that they are. (I have just had my barn & other buildings burnt in the country & it makes me think of insurance.)
Dr. MacCallum has been corresponding lately with a lady who is head of an art committee of some sort in Sarnia. This committee has been buying pictures for Sarnia. Last winter they bought three from the building here, one of Beattie’s, one of Jackson’s, & one of Palmer’s, and though the price paid was not large – 25000 each – the artists were all well pleased as the pictures are for the schools and gallery in Sarnia & will do good. It appears now that some more pictures are wanted in Sarnia, & we are to send up a number for approval. We would like very much to send up one of Tom’s among that number, & as the Sarnia folks are asking for advice we want to recommend
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that they buy one of Tom’s, “Chill November” I think the picture is called. It shows a string of wild ducks flying over a lake against a cold frosty sky. If you are willing, we will send this picture to Sarnia with our own and price it at 60000. Let us hear from you in this connection as soon as possible, as we have to send the pictures without delay.
I understand that the total money to be spent amounts to 150000. There is a chance that the committee will take a picture from Montreal at 60000. They will be strongly recommended to take Tom’s at 60000 leaving 30000 to be spent on others. Of course, they may not follow our recommendation. We have heard that they are being strongly influenced to spend all the money on two very commonplace pictures by two of the older Canadian artists, & it is to prevent this waste of money, & to attempt to give a better Canadian character to their collection that we would like them to have this picture of Tom’s. The picture is well suited to a public collection, being too large for a private house, & this seems to be a good opportunity to place it well. The price – 60000 – is also a substantial one. It is the valuation we placed on the picture when shown in Tom’s exhibition.
I understand that Dr. MacCallum is writing to the Sarnia lady to tell her of our recommendation. If you are willing to let Tom’s picture go as I have suggested we will send it along & do our best. There
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would be a small commission to deduct from the selling price, to pay for shipment, packing & insurance, but it ought not to amount to more than 1000 or 1500. Let us know your feeling, by return, if possible.
With kind regards to Mrs. Harkness.
Yours very truly