Artwork by Tom Thomson,  Evening, Pine Island

Tom Thomson
Evening, Pine Island

oil on panel
Estate stamp lower right; Estate stamp and inscribed with title and dated “1914” on the reverse
10.5 x 8.5 ins ( 26.7 x 21.6 cms )

Auction Estimate: $1,200,000.00$900,000.00 - $1,200,000.00

Price Realized $1,680,000.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Estate of the Artist
Mrs. Ethel Dunbar, Toronto
Loan from the Estate of Ethel Dunbar to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1972
M.I. Humphries, Toronto
Roberts Gallery, Toronto
Acquired by the present Private Collection, April 1984
“The Art of Tom Thomson”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; travelling to Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina; Winnipeg Art Gallery; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Confederation Art Gallery and Museum, Charlottetown, 30 October‒12 December, 1971, no. 21
“Collector’s Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; travelling to Musée du Québec, Quebec City; Vancouver Art Gallery; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, 14 May 1988‒7 May 1989, no. 53
“Tom Thomson,” National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; travelling to the Vancouver Art Gallery; Musée du Québec, Quebec City; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Winnipeg Art Gallery, 7 June 2002‒7 December 2003, no. 29
“Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven”, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; travelling to National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo; Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands, 19 October 2011‒28 October 2012, no. 10
“Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver Art Gallery; travelling to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary; Art Gallery of Hamilton, 30 October 2015‒25 September 2016
“Pop Up Museum”, Canadian Friends of the Israel Museum, 9 August 2017
J.M. MacCallum, ‘Tom Thomson: Painter of the North’, “The Canadian Magazine”, 50:5 (March 1918), pages 375‒385
A.Y. Jackson, “A Painter's Country (The Autobiography of A.Y. Jackson)”, Toronto, 1958, page 24
Joan Murray, “The Art of Tom Thomson”, Toronto, 1971, pages 32, 91, reproduced page 69
Joan Murray, “The Best of Tom Thomson”, Edmonton, 1986, reproduced page 28
Dennis Reid, “Collector’s Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Toronto, 1988, no. 53, pages 5‒6, reproduced page 56 Joan Murray, “Tom Thomson: Design for a Canadian Hero”, Toronto/ Oxford, 1998, reproduced after page 32
Charles C. Hill, ‘Tom Thomson Painter’, in “Tom Thomson”, Toronto/ Ottawa/Vancouver, 2002, pages 126, 129, 331 notes 86, 106, reproduced page 182
David Silcox, “The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson”, Toronto, 2003, reproduced page 246
Ian Dejardin and Sarah Milroy, “Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven”, London, 2011, reproduced page 113
Charles C. Hill, ‘No Timid Play of Subtleties but Bold and Massive Design: the Group of Seven and the Canadian Landscape’, in Ian Thom, et al., “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver/London, 2015, pages 86, 203, reproduced pages 86 and 134
Joan Murray, “Tom Thomson Catalogue Raisonné” (2016): inventory number 1914./37 (accessed on 16 July 2022)
Over a period of twenty years the artist members of the Group of Seven painted across the breadth of Canada, from Algonquin Park to Algoma, to the north shore of Lake Superior and the Lower Saint Lawrence and Atlantic provinces, from the Rockies to the Arctic, but Georgian Bay is closely associated with their history in the years prior to the First World War. Indeed the varying landscapes of the Bay would become Arthur Lismer’s favoured subject in the 1930s.

A.Y. Jackson first visited relatives at Penetanguishene in 1910 but his first encounter with the Georgian Bay landscape was a disappointment. As he wrote to his mother (postmarked 9 July 1910, Naomi Groves fonds, Library and Archives Canada), “It is great country to have a holiday in, boating, fishing, swimming, etc., the water is very warm, but it’s nothing but little islands covered with scrub and pine trees and not quite paintable.” The principal catalyst for the artists to paint on Georgian Bay was Dr. James MacCallum (1860‒1943). Ophthalmologist and professor at the University of Toronto, Dr. MacCallum had spent part of his youth at Collingwood and in 1911 built a cottage at Go Home Bay. At Toronto’s Arts and Letters Club, he came to know J.E.H. MacDonald and Lawren Harris who shared his love of the northern Ontario landscape. In 1912 MacCallum invited J.E.H MacDonald and his family to Go Home Bay and in 1913 Arthur Lismer and family. As the Lismers left for Toronto, A.Y. Jackson was given refuge at the MacCallum cottage. Georgian Bay landscapes by these artists figured prominently in Toronto exhibitions. In the first Georgian Bay paintings of all three artists the expansive sky above the low horizon of the rocky islands is the principal subject.

Tom Thomson had grown up in Leith near Owen Sound on Georgian Bay. He worked as a commercial artist in Toronto and Seattle before beginning to paint seriously in 1912 but he does not appear to have shown any interest in painting the Bay until he visited Dr. MacCallum in the summer of 1914.

MacCallum had met Thomson in the fall of 1912 and he had immediately bought some of Thomson’s oil sketches, struck by “their truthfulness, their feeling and their sympathy with the grim, fascinating northland.... They made me feel the North had gripped Thomson as it had gripped me since I was eleven when I first sailed and paddled through its silent places.” A.Y. Jackson had just returned from Go Home Bay when he met Thomson in the fall of 1913 in Lawren Harris’ studio. Jackson was then painting his large Georgian Bay canvas “The Northland” (later titled “Terre Sauvage”) (National Gallery of Canada, acc. no. 4351). MacCallum offered both Jackson and Thomson a guaranteed income through purchases for one year and in January 1914 the two artists moved into a shared studio in the newly constructed Studio Building that had been financed by Harris and MacCallum. In May Thomson painted in Algonquin Park with Arthur Lismer then met MacCallum to canoe on the French River and on Georgian Bay. “Evening, Pine Island” was painted the last afternoon before he left. “I had planned to take him up to the North West Wooded Pine where there is a tree that always has inspired me,” MacCallum later wrote. “[W]e were late in getting started, so that instead I had to take him to the South West Wooded Pine – an island of granite about a quarter of a mile in length by 100 yards wide and say 50 feet high.”

Thomson painted at least two oil sketches of trees on Pine Island. The expansive sky is not the subject. Instead he focussed on the rocks and trees viewed from a low vantage point. “Pine Island” in the McMichael Canadian Collection (1966.16.70) is horizontal. Rocks dominate the foreground, and the foliage of the pines is solidly painted in dark green, set against the white clouds and blue sky. The linear pattern of the trees moves from right to left. “Evening, Pine Island” probably depicts the same trees but appears to have been painted from the other side of the island. The movement moves from left to right in a vertical composition. The trees are illuminated by the warm light of the setting sun and silhouetted against mauve clouds that rise diagonally from lower left to upper right. The foreground rocks are summarily treated and the trunks, branches and foliage are merely suggested by rapidly applied brushstrokes. The composition is less dense and the space breathes. The bare wood shows through, enhancing the movement of the windblown pines. One feels the rapidity of its painting being one with the artist’s experience in nature.

On his return to Toronto Thomson painted three canvases from his Georgian Bay sketches. “Split Rock, Georgian Bay” (National Gallery of Canada, acc. no. 4575), and “Byng Inlet, Georgian Bay” (McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1977.31) were exhibited with the Ontario Society of Artists the following March. The large canvas “Pine Island, Georgian Bay” (National Gallery of Canada, acc. no. 4726) painted from the sketch “Evening, Pine Island”, is unsigned and was never exhibited during the artist’s lifetime. MacCallum later acquired it and said Thomson worked on it over an extended period. In doing so he radically reworked the sky from a yellow‒mauve glow to more low‒ toned greens and soft yellows painted with a subtle broken brushwork. He opened the space to the purple water at the right and created a more linear arabesque of the windblown trees painted in blue, red and green. The challenges of enlarging the small sketch on to a large canvas were successfully confronted. The canvas retains the movement and dynamism of this superb sketch but in a different palette and mood. For MacCallum, this painting had “more emotion and feeling than any other of his canvases.”

We extend our thanks to Charles Hill, Canadian art historian, former Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada and author of “The Group of Seven – Art for a Nation”, for his assistance in researching this artwork and for contributing the preceding essay.

This artwork has been scheduled to be included in the upcoming touring exhibition “Tom Thomson: North Star”, which will be presented at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection beginning in July 2023.
A rare sketch for a known canvas, “Evening, Pine Island” exceeded expectations, selling for $1.68 million in the live auction on December 1st, 2022. This painting and “Petawawa Gorges” by Thomson, both offered in the Live Auction of An Important Private Collection of Canadian Art, are two of the top five paintings by the artist to meet the top end of the estimate at auction.

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Tom Thomson
(1877 - 1917)

Tom Thomson was born near Claremont, Ontario and grew up in Leith, near Owen Sound. After moving to Toronto, his early career was spent as a commercial artist at Grip Ltd., the commercial design firm where he first met MacDonald, Harris, Jackson, Lismer and others. By 1911, Thomson was making regular sketching trips to areas north of Toronto and, in 1912, he made the first of many trips to Algonquin Park.

As well as being an artist, Tom Thomson was an avid outdoorsman and Algonquin Park soon became his favourite place to paint. His enthusiasm for its quiet, untouched landscape with its changing moods and bright fall colours inspired other artists to explore the region. After 1914, Tom Thomson spent most of his time painting in Algonquin, except during the coldest winter months. It was during this period that he produced the bulk of his paintings of this rugged northern landscape. Thomson's brief, but prolific, career as an artist came to a premature end when he drowned in Canoe Lake in 1917, just three years before the Group of Seven held their first exhibition. His artistic achievement was to remain an inspirational force to other Group members.