Harry B. Jackson, Letter to Bobby, Apr. 29, 1931


Dear Bobby,

Thompson never had any system about laying in the color blocks – no painter paints by a system. If he does, God help him. The way a painter applies his paint depends chiefly on his subject and what he wants to express. In painting the drawing depends on how the color is used. The fool critics always talking about so and so’s brush stroke – I can imitate his brush stroke, but that does not make a picture or a work of art. Technique does not do it, however closed imitated – forget about the color spots, the brush stroke and all the rest of it and try to enter into the feeling or

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emotion which the artist tried to express. Tom Thomson used color and brush stroke in a dozen different ways – he had no system – was unconscious of any system – thought only of what he was feeling and trying to express. I have more of his work than any person or institution, from his earliest days to his last – method he had none, or rather he had dozens – but he never thought about the method. I know your difficulty. Watching him sketching one day I said Tom how do you know that these Jabs and dots you are putting down is going to look like a real thing – His reply was why it looks Just like that! You have not seen the Pointers (or the Pageant of the North) – done in big blotches of pure colour 2 inches by 3/4 – some larger, some smaller – This was done in this way because the critics had been attacking him and his methods. When I dropped in on him while he was painting it and asked him why he was doing it in that way his answer was Damn them! I’ll show them.

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You know scientifically from the prism into what elements light resolves itself and how those elements combined give light The French Impressionists worked it out from dots of color which the eye and the mind of the observer again combines – Tom realized that it could be done with masses of pure color large or small – As he said to me about one sketch “do not take that one it has not enough daylight in it.”


James M. MacCallum

Source: Archives of Ontario, MU583/F1066. William Colgate Collection., Files on Tom Thomson 1915-1958. File IIA – “Tom Thomson Correspondence, 1915-1943”., Dr. James MacCallum, Letter to Bobby, January 24, 1930

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