Sarnia gallery explores Tom Thomson painting
What became known as the Sarnia Art Movement worked with Gurd and James McCallum, a Toronto doctor who was an early supporter and patron of painters in the Group of Seven, to collect work from contemporary Canadian artists.
Several Group of Seven paintings, along with Thomson’s Chill November, were part of approximately 25 pieces of Canadian art the association donated to the city’s library in 1956, where an art gallery was established a few years later.
“It’s kind of a cool opportunity to take a closer look at one of the paintings in the permanent collection,” Blazek said about the exhibition that research inspired.
It opened in early October and includes background about the painting and the artist, as well as publications and other shows featuring the piece, including a 1927 Canadian art exhibition that travelled to Paris.
Also in the new Sarnia exhibition is the Women’s Conservation Art Association’s purchase book showing it spent $600 in 1920 to buy Chill November, a few years after Thomson’s mysterious death in 1917 while he was on a fishing trip.
A smaller painting by Thomson sold for $480,000 in 2018 at auction in Toronto.
Joining the painting in the show is an original Thomson sketch, on loan from Museum London.
The sketch, Wild Geese, was likely painted in 1915 or 1916 near Algonquin Park and served as the model when Thomson painted Chill November at home in Toronto.
It has been 15 years since the sketch and painting have been shown together, Blazek said.
“He was the prelude to the Group of Seven,” Blazek said about Thomson, who knew members of the group but died before it formed.
Thomson died mysteriously early in his career and became a Canadian legend, even receiving a reference in a song by The Tragically Hip.
“He’s a huge Canadian art figure,” Blazek said.
“A lot of people love Tom Thomson,” and the painting, Chill November, “is absolutely stunning,” she said.
Volunteers and patrons of the gallery look forward to opportunities to see Chill November, and other pieces from the original Women’s Conservation Art Association donation, when they’re featured in exhibitions, Blazek said.
“It’s like they’re coming to see an old friend.”
Blazek said the exhibition is also an opportunity for the public to enjoy the well-travelled and well-preserved painting created more than a century ago.
“We’re so grateful to the Women’s Conservation Art Association for thinking about doing this for us, and we’re so lucky we have the opportunity to care for it,” she said.
The Sarnia Observer
By Paul Morden
November 1, 2019