Dr MacCallum Recounts

Excerpted form Dr. James MacCallum, “Tom Thomson: Painter of the North”, Canadian Magazine, Mar. 1918


As has been said, Thomson had but one method of expressing himself, and that one was by means of paint. He did not discuss theories of art, technical methods nor choice of motives. He never told about marvelous scenes, of how they had thrilled and held him. He merely showed the sketches and said never a word of his difficulties or of what he had tried to express. His idea seemed to be that the way to learn to paint was to paint. He did not choose some one landscape or some one kind of landscape. All nature seemed to him paintable – the most difficult, the most unlikely subjects held no terrors for him – the confidence of inexperience it may have been. No doubt he put his own impress on what he painted, but the country he painted ever grew into his soul, stronger and stronger, rendering him shy and silent, filling him with longing and love for its beauties. His stay in the studio became shorter and shorter, his dress more and more like that of the backwoodsman. The quiet hidden strength, confidence and resource of the voyageur showed itself in the surety of handling in his work. He was not concerned with any special technique, any particular mode of application of colour, with this kind of brush stroke or that. If it were true to nature, technique might be anything. A technique all his own, varying with the occasion, sprang into being, not as the result of any laboured thought or experiment, but because it could not be otherwise. He proved the theory that the technique should harmonize with the nature of the painting, should never overpower or dominate the idea or emotion expressed, and should appear to be the best or the only technique to adequately express the idea.

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