An examination of Canadian identity through our cultural obsession with iconic painter Tom Thomson
Since his drowning in 1917, Tom Thomson has been recreated by poets, playwrights, novelists, filmmakers, biographers, and other artists as a legendary figure synonymous with Canada and its northern identity. Touted as a great artist cut off in his prime, his mysterious death in Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, and the controversy about his final resting-place fired the popular imagination and raised him to the status of a national hero. In "Inventing Tom Thomson" Sherrill Grace examines many of the ways in which the figure of Thomson has been imagined by Canadians. Even people who do not know his paintings well will recognize "The Jack Pine" and know his legend through the marketing of Thomson memorabilia on the Web, in museums, and in stores.
Grace suggests that the figure we have come to recognize as Tom Thomson is inextricably associated with many of the qualities that we believe characterize Canadian culture - love of the wilderness, northern purity, solitary independence, and a masculine ability to canoe, camp, fish, and rough it in the bush. "Inventing Tom Thomson" is about those artists who have felt compelled to imagine their own Tom Thomsons and about what the man has come to represent to the culture at large - it is about us and how the stories about this exceptional painter have shaped our sense of who we are as a nation.