Gail Dexter, "Tom Thomson’s dollar-a-month shack becomes a Group of Seven shrine", Toronto Star, June 1, 1968

[ Tom Thomson studio (exterior), Toronto ]

Tom Thomson studio (exterior), Toronto, Unknown, 1942, Archives of Ontario, F1066/I0010308.jpg, This photograph gives a sense of the shack Tom Thomson used as a studio in Toronto. The shack was located adjacent to the studio building Dr. James MacCallum and Lawren Harris erected on Severn Street


Thomson’s small, weather beaten shack, has been moved to the McMichael Conservation Collection of Art – 630 acres of rolling woodland in Kleinberg, Ont. Bob and Signe McMichael, who donated more than 200 important Group of Seven paintings and the home they build to house them to the Ontario government in 1965, have been working on the restoration of the shack for the past six years. It was opened to the public for the first time this week.


The first exhibition of the Group of Seven was held at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1920, three years after Thomson died at the age of 40 in a canoeing accident in Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park. In 1913 Lawren Harris built the Studio Building (still in use near Bloor and Yonge St.) where the members of the group painted and lived but Thomson preferred the adjoining tool shed which dated from the mid-18th century.


Today the shack is a shrine, a storehouse of memories. When Thoreau MacDonald was asked for clues as to the original contents of the studio, he recalled meeting Thomson there for the first time. Thomson would make potatoes, he said, mashing them with the bottom of a bottle and adding half a pound of butter to a dozen potatoes.

A. Y. Jackson contributed his snow shoes to the collection of artifacts, and suggested that a string of fishing lures should hang on the wall near the window. When the fishing lures came down, he said, it was a sign that Thomson was leaving for Algonquin Park the next day.

Thomson lived and worked in one of the shack’s two rooms in the winters of 1915-17. Here, he painted his large canvases. One the easel which he built himself there stands today a small reproduction of The Jack Pine, possibly his most famous painting. The McMichaels hope to replace this with a full-scale print of West Wind (now owned by the Art Gallery of Ontario), the painting which was left on the easel when Thomson went to Canoe Lake for the last time.


Source: Gail Dexter, "Tom Thomson’s dollar-a-month shack becomes a Group of Seven shrine ," Toronto Star, June 1, 1968. Notes: Reproduced with permission — Torstar Syndication Services

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