Minnie Henry, Letter to Blodwen Davies, Feb. 2, 1931

Aberdeen, Sask. Feb 2nd 1931

[ Louise (Thomson) Henry, Minnie Thomson, Ada Scott and Ida Scott ]

Louise (Thomson) Henry, Minnie Thomson, Ada Scott and Ida Scott, E. Tucker, 1903, Library and Archives Canada/Bibliotheque et Archives Canada, PA-194809, Front row, left to right: Louise (Thomson) Henry (1873-1971), Minnie Thomson (1875-1960). Back row, left to right: Ada Scott, and her sister, Ida Scott, both of Leith, Ontario

Dear Miss Davies,–

[…] Your treatment of your subject is wonderfully sympathetic and the information mostly correct. In the letter I received you said you wished to make the biography as authentic as possible. Would you feel hurt if I pointed out one error in the booklet? I know it is very difficult to get dates especially accurate after a lapse of years. [...] you speak of Tom’s introduction to the medium of oils as being about 1911. On Christmas of 1904 Tom gave me an oil painting of a young man with a team of horses and plough. The lad is standing at the horses’ heads, before starting to unhitch, and gazing off at a vivid sunset. He was taking lessons then from an elderly artist in Toronto, whose name I can’t recall, but whose pictures were selling for a good sum. Some of them as high as $1000. This picture of the horses was the first one his teacher had given him any encouragement over. He just said “Did you paint this? Well you’d better keep on.” I am sure of the date, as I was married two days later and had the picture framed, along with three water-colors before coming west.

[…] When Tom was about seventeen, he became very restless and discontented. He was very anxious to go sailing, and as he had rather weak lungs and a touch of inflammatory rheumatism mother opposed his going. Through time he changed his mind, and stayed home working on the farm until he was of age. When he came into enough money from grandfather’s estate to attend Business College in Chatham.

[…] After Tom returned from Seattle I saw less of him than other members of the family who were at home, as I was away a good deal. At the time of his return I was in St. Catherines, and missed his visit. However he took a week-end to come across on the boat from Toronto, to see me, and we had a most satisfying visit to together. That was in the fall of 1905. While he was there he and I attended St. Thomas Church, and next morning he made a rough sketch of it. (On Christmas of 1906 he gave me a large water color sketch of this church, I have it still, and it is one of the most admired and prized of all my pictures.)

I didn’t see him again until the next July, when he insisted that I stop off in Toronto for two days to visit him on my way home, and we had a wonderful visit together.

He knew the most delightful tea rooms, and one day he took me to McKonkey’s. I had not been there before, and remarked on what a delightful place it was, how cool and restful, and on the beautiful service and delicious food, and Tom said “I would like to eat here always, but one can’t on $15 a week. (That was what he rec’d when he came to Toronto.) After a while he said, “I like the atmosphere of this place, and the class of people who come here.” I wonder if any of his artist friends ever suspected that hunger for the refinements and niceties of life.

His choosing of the more primative mode of living was rather of necessity than preference. It was a cheerful and philosophical acceptance of the only alternative to dependence. He told me once that his paint alone cost him about $500 a year, and he smiled as he said “You know an artist has to have paint, even if he goes hungry.”

One opinion which seems to be held by most of Tom’s friends is that he was unusually reserved and quiet. I can’t somehow reconcile that description of him with the Tom we all knew and loved at home. He had his quiet moods but one never caught his glance but he would smile… With his own folk he was not reserved and silent. He dearly loved an argument and generally held his own in a battle of wits. […]

In 1915 after 8 years absence in the west the Sask. members of the family paid our first visit home. […]

I noticed a great change in Tom. He seemed engrossed with his work and much quieter. He told us then that he was going to try again to enlist, and if they turned him down he might come west and paint the Rocky Mountains. He was worried too that no one was buying pictures. However in the spring the call of the north was too strong to resist and we were disappointed again. […]

Sincerely Yours,
Minnie Henry

Source: Library and Archives Canada/Bibliotheque et Archives Canada, MG30 D38 ‘Blodwen Davies fonds’, Vol. 11, Minnie Henry, "Letter to Blodwen Davies," February 2, 1931

Return to parent page