tom thomson canadian painterEvery country has its legendary artists. When you think of iconic British artists, names like JMW Turner and William Hogarth may come to mind. For the USA, the most famous recognized names would undoubtedly be such artists as Jackson Pollock, Norman Rockwell, and Andy Warhol. Canada has had many influential artists, but none have had the impact on Canadian art which Tom Thomson had. I realize there may be some readers who have not even heard of Tom Thomson, especially those from other parts of the world. So, I will give you a brief background on Tom Thomson, and also give you an opportunity to let us know about your own favourite artists at the end of this article.



Tom Thomson was born in Claremont, Ontario, Canada in 1877 and died under mysterious circumstances at the young age of 39. His body was found in Canoe Lake (Algonquin Park) 8 days after he disappeared there. The cause of death had been ruled as drowning, but there were questions to how he died. Some even claimed that he had been murdered, while others said it may have been suicide - he suffered from depression because of the failure to sell many paintings. Whatever the reason, the speculation has only served to add to the mystique of Tom Thomson’s short lived life.


tom thomson westwind

Tom Thomson - Canada’s Van Gogh

He has been touted by some as Canada’s Van Gogh. Not only did Thomson die young and had little notoriety during life, but his paintings had the same energy and vibrancy as Van Gogh’s paintings. Ever since his death, his work has had a huge impact on Canadian art. The Group of Seven formed after his death, including painters all directly influenced by Tom Thompson. Even today, many Canadian artists, myself included, list Tom Thomson as one of their artistic influences.

Oil Painting Sketches

Tom Thomson was mainly a self taught artist. He did draw and paint from an early age, but he didn’t paint full time until his mid thirties. In the last five years of his life, he painted hundreds of small plein air oil painting sketches on small panels (some displayed on this page), most of them now considered the finest artworks every created by a Canadian artist. Many of these sketches were turned into full scale artworks later on in his studio.


tom thompson jack pine


Tom Thomson’s Influence on Canadian Art

Create your own Website!Thomson’s paintings has had an influence on many of the famous Canadian painters who came after. Some of the painters from the Group of Seven painted the same plein air subjects and in a style emulating Thomson.

Other artists that have been influenced by Thomson are Joyce Wieland, Emily Carr, and Harold Town. His artwork now resides in such places as the Art Gallery of Ontario, The National Gallery of Canada, etc.


Share with Us Your Favourite Historical Artists

What is your favourite artist from art history? If there is one which you feel a connection to or have been influenced by, please share it with us. Either leave a comment below, or submit a guest post. All guest posters will receive a free link to their website!

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  1. My favorite artist is Michelangelo. He was dedicated to his work. He never stopped. While his art is larger than life, his museum is dedicated to the entire world and to God. He lived for and breathed his art and his soul remains in the walls ceiling and sculpture which will remain with us all forever. Most likely his tools are buried with him, but his life is our legend.

  2. Thanks for this article on Tom Thomson Graham. He's always been a great inspiration and I admit I have a big artist crush on the guy regardless of the fact he has long left this earthly cord! Roy McGregor has written a forensic investigative book about him which is really interesting. His grandfather knew Tom and didn't much like him, aparently said he was a bum!I can hardly imagine him being that. I do think he must have been very troubled by times being bi-polar and probably self-medicated with the drink. Any way, if you haven't heard of this book it's a fascinating read.

  3. Tom Thompson is one of my favorite Canadian artists. If he had lived longer he certainly would have been part of the Group of Seven- which would then be eight. They certainly had a cohesive influence on Canadian art at that time and even up to the present day.

  4. Thanks for this article on Tom Thomson Graham. Tom Thompson is one of my favourite Canadian artists, too! I feel very fortunate to be from Ontario Canada and have seen the landscapes that inspired Tom and some of the others to paint. They handsomely accomplished putting Canadian landscapes in art history for the world to appreciate. And to think that at the time, many Canadians felt the country wasn't beautiful enough to be represented on canvas - most likely because they immigrated from much more beautiful areas and the climate of the time clouded their their feelings.

    Palma, Michelango is also among my favourite artists of all time, as well as the impressionists. I so much enjoyed participating in an Art Trading Card group project that was titled 2011 Old Masters Trade on and reproduced one of Michelangelo's paintings as well as other old masters. Although not as "old", I also reproduced one of Tom Thompson's and few others of the Group of Seven. If you care to view them, please visit:

    1. Apologies ... Two ! ... The link I provided in the post requires one to be a member of… And… The link to my gallery on my web site is not working correctly except for the one in the banner ... Hopefully this link will direct correctly ...

  5. Thank you for the post! I enjoyed learning about Tom Thomson, an artist who is new to me.
    One of my favorite artists is Remedios Varo, who is well known in Mexico, but not so in the US. I discovered her work more than twenty years ago in an exhibit at the Mexico City airport, of all places. Varo was influenced by surrealism and alchemy, painted imagery that was highly original, and was meticulous in her craft. As a visual artist myself (painter/photographer), I revere excellent craftsmanship.

  6. Hi, I read with interest your profile on Tom Thomson. His mysterious death and circumstances seemed for many years similar to Van Goph's. However a couple years ago, through the use of modern technology and the diligence of a relative of Thompson, it was determined that Thomson quarrelled with the couple owning the cabin he rented on Lake Superior. The reason and details of the fight remain unkown. The man/owner of the cabin took a fire poker to Thomson's head and then the couple dragged him out to his canoe and dumped him in the lake.

    Thomson inspired the painting style of the Group of Seven. Thomson went solo early on in the group's development. But one other member from the beginning, Lawren Harris is probably more famous in Canada for his stylistic landscapes bordering on abstraction. Harris is also self trained in painting, but professionally trained as all the members of the group in drafting and design. They were commerical artists in Toronto, Ontario, who started a Sunday painters group! Harris's paintings are a must see for all who visit the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

  7. Thanks Palma, Catherine, Forrest, Leah, and Barbara!!

    Love the artwork Leah!!

  8. @Diane Rae
    Thank-you Diane! .. Have to check out the AGO whenever I'm over that way..


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