Wednesday 21 May 2014

Tom Thomson shack

In 1914, Lawren Harris and Dr James McCallum purchased land on Severn Street in the Rosedale ravine in Toronto on which they built a studio offering low-rental space for Canadian painters. Now a National Historic Site of Canada, the Studio Building gave artists, including Tom Thomson and A.Y. Jackson, a place to live, work and socialize.

Behind the Studio Building stood a small shack, previously occupied by a cabinet maker and later used as a tool shed during the studios construction. By the fall of 1915, Thomson had moved into the shack apparently out of economic necessity, paying just one dollar a month in rent. The arrangement allowed the artist to live as he would in the north country- cooking his own meals, sleeping, painting, and hiking through the ravine - while at the same time keeping him in close contact with his fellow painters. The shack was to be Thomson's home and studio until his untimely death in 1917.

Several changes and repairs were made to the modest building in order to accommodate Thomson, including the addition of a large window along the east wall. The artist also constructed for himself a bunk, shelves, a table and an easel. Thomson's shack soon became a gathering place for his friends and colleagues. Arthur Lismer, Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, F.H. Varley and Franklin Carmichael among others, were known to asemble there regularly to discuss the news over a pipe adn a meal of beans or mulligan stew prepared by Thomson himself. .

After spending the warmer months sketching in the Park. Thomson would return to the shack to continue his work. During the three winters he spent there. Thomson painted approximately twenty cnavases including two of his most celebrated works. The West Wind and The Jack Pine. 

After Thomson's death in 1917, the shack was used occasionally by a number of artists, among them A.Y.Jackson, Fred Varley, sculptor Frances Gage, and a prospector named Keith MacIver, who made a series of repairs to the deteriorating building.
It was eventually purchased by Robert and Singe McMichael, and moved to the gallery grounds in 1962, along with Thomson's original easel an two of his palettes. While the details of its full history are somewhat unknown, the Tom Thomson Shack represents an imprtant piece of Canadian history and offers visitors a glimpse into the life an work of one of the country's most enigmatic artists. 
(from the McMichael website)

One sunny spring day earlier this year i made the trip to Kleinburg to the gallery. Oddly enough, i had never gone over to see the shack. 

Original 1915 photograph

Approach along the path

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