June 14, 2024
Art Gallery

Art gallery to unveil recently donated painting by Tom Thomson


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For the first time in more than 20 years, the Tom Thomson Art Gallery has received a donation of a painting by the iconic Canadian artist the gallery is named after.

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The work by Tom Thomson will be unveiled during a special celebration at the gallery on June 14, which will mark the beginning of the new exhibition called The Homecoming.

The painting was donated to the gallery by Fred and Ann Notehelfer, who have said they are delighted the painting is returning to the city.

“It has been a joy for us to have had this painting for twenty years, but we have always believed that we are only ‘custodians’ when it comes to works of art, and that such works ultimately belong to the greater public,” the Notehelfers said in a news release. “We are so happy that this painting has once again found its ancestral home.”

The gallery’s permanent collection of over 2,600 objects includes one of Canada’s largest collections of Thomson’s works and personal effects.

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While he died before the official formation of the famous Canadian landscape painters, The Group of Seven, Thomson had a significant influence on the group and is often considered an unofficial member. The artist’s works are highly desirable to collectors.

At the recent Heffel spring auction, three Thomson works were available from the collection of the late Torben V. Kristiansen.

All three of the oil sketches fetched prices above their estimates. Colourful Maples (1914) sold for $961,250 (estimate $700,000 to $900,000), Fall Woods, Algonquin Park brought in $931,250 (estimate $500,000 to $700,000) and Stream Bank and Tree (1908-1910) fetched $241,250 (estimate $40,000 to $50,000).

The Homecoming exhibition at the local art gallery will explore the role Owen Sound played in Thomson’s artistic growth and his emergence as a national icon. It is presented through the research of former curator of collections, David Huff, and sponsored by the Heffel Foundation.

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Gallery Director and Chief Curator Aidan Ware said the exhibition has been in development for many years through the efforts of Huff, and it is providing an opportunity to not only celebrate Thomson’s connection to the city, but also the addition of the new Thomson painting.

“It is a homecoming in the truest sense,” Ware said in the release.

Thomson grew up on a farm near Leith, and after apprenticing at a foundry and machine shop in Owen Sound in 1899, he left the city to further his education and seek adventure in Seattle, Washington.

In 1902 his parents sold the Leith family farm and moved to a home near the present-day site of Georgian College, overlooking Owen Sound. Thomson returned to Ontario three years later, working in Toronto as a graphic designer, but regularly visiting the Owen Sound area to see family and friends.

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In 1908, Thomson’s parents built a new house at 528 4th Ave. E., providing easy access to the Sydenham River and the surrounding hills in what is now Harrison Park. The works created during Thomson’s visits act as key markers in tracing his artistic development, the release said.

It was in Owen Sound area that Thomson captured family members’ likenesses in early sketchbooks, recorded local scenes in line drawings using pen and ink, and experimented with recording the landscape through black and white photography. Most importantly it was where he transitioned from watercolour to oil-painted landscapes, for which he would become famous, the release said.

Thomson died a month shy of his 40th birthday in Algonquin Park on July 8, 1917. He is buried at the cemetery in Leith.

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The evening reception on June 14 will include opening remarks by Charles Hill, one of Canada’s pre-eminent art historians, music by Max Clark, a performance from the musical Tom Thomson’s Wake by members of Shipyard Kitchen Party and a Tom Thomsson monologue by Karina McKerroll. Other highlights include Thomson-inspired cocktails, wine, beer and cider and edibles by The Milk Maid.

The celebration will continue on June 15 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a lunch talk by Charles Hill, former curator of Canadian art at the National Gallery. Lunch will be provided by The Milk Maid with coffee and tea.

The cost for the Friday evening reception is $50, while Saturday’s talk is $35. The price to attend both events is $75, with tickets available at the gallery, by phone at 519-376-1932 or on the gallery website at www.owensound.ca/recreation-culture/arts-and-culture/tom-thomson-art-gallery

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