Pearl McCarthy, "ART AND ARTISTS", Globe and Mail, Mar. 15, 1937

Three years’ work by the Mellors Gallery towards a collection on which this gallery had set its heart, reached the desired goal on Saturday, when an exhibition of work by the late Tom Thomson was opened. The gallery has but three or four little bits to sell, but it has much to show the public, and it merits high commendation for its enterprise. The ninety sketches and canvases form as comprehensive display of this almost legendary figure as has been offered. The greater number have been lent by private owners. One sketch, “Autumn, Smoke Lake,” is a new find. It is an extraordinary thing that, despite all the publicity which has been given the Group of Seven in the last twenty years, there are still some works by Thomson which cannot be located. The fine catalogue, with its color plates and its foreword by Dr. J. W. MacCallum, includes a hitherto unpublished photograph of the painter fishing.

[...] The tribute to the pioneer painters should include honor to the few men and women who appreciated them before their works became classics as they are today, especially to Dr. MacCallum. Sir Edmund Walker was in the vanguard. Eric Brown had the courage to have their works bought for the National Gallery, and he suffered for his good judgment. Augustus Bridle was one of the few writers in Canada who did not miss the boat. J. W. Beatty gave his enthusiasm. But it is just probably that, had it not been for Dr. MacCallum’s sturdy backing of encouragement and wherewithal when it was needed, some of the pictures might never have appeared for some to appreciate at the time, many to abuse, and later generations to possess.


Tom Thomson’s paintings should be seen for understanding of that dangerous but vital element of art – nationalism. A man cannot speak of his country and its people until he has seen them, and seeing them is not merely knowing where are the customs borders, nor knowing the names and occupations of some citizens. He must find something in that country with which to identify the highest flights of his own personality. If he tries to be national before he has done that he puts the cart before the horse and there is a boring period of standstill. Thomson loved what he saw, lived in a kind of haughty humility with nature. The stupids who accused him of impressionist and postimpressionist trend did not know that, while they were reading secondhand accounts of far-away art, a man like Thomson, when he was not painting, was making himself fishing trolls out of wire and colored beads, watching the weather to see how soon he might dive into the north again.

Look at the solidity of the color values in his sketches, the adaptation of brush-stroke to natural aspect, the objective flair for pattern, the form and color in composition through which you feel not a method but a thrilling spirit. Then you’ve seen two truths; that nature can be a teacher of thought and feeling rather than just something to copy or a toy for too-proud mental gymnastics; that deep love and sympathy with nature is provocative of both philosophy and technique. […]

Source: Pearl McCarthy, "Art and Artists," Globe and Mail, March 15, 1937

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