April 10, 1917 Waiting for the Wildflowers

April 10, 1917

A cool but sunny day, but the wind was something fierce. The wind was strong in the morning but it got worse in the afternoon. A number of shingles started to pull off the roof on the storage shed, and Shannon was fretting as the exposed plywood underneath became greater and greater.

“It’s those cedar shingles,” Shannon remarked, “They don’t stay on worth a damn when the wind kicks up.”

I had nothing to add as we both watched a future chore unfold before our eyes.

“The store house is the worst, we’ll have to replace them in the summer.” Shannon’s eyes took on a new light, ” We’ll have to replace them with those new asbestos shingles. They don’t catch on fire and they insulate good in the winter.”

Shannon had a good point. Every year, there were numerous fires around the lakes. In the winter, it usually started inside, the stove or chimney too hot, an errant ember from the fireplace, or a forgotten pipe. In the summer, fires started on the roof, from a nearby bonfire, an airborne cinder, kept alive in the fresh air and landing on the rooftop to find ample combustible material to set the entire structure on fire within minutes. I said I’d help him with the roofing, knowing full well that this chore would not be done on a sunny day (too nice) nor on a rainy day (too slippery).

The strong wind is a sure sign that the real spring weather is coming and changes by day are becoming more pronounced. There’s still a lot of snow around but pockets of brown and green are start to grow. The first true green I saw were the willow shoots. The other green, of course, is the moss and lichen on the rocks.  The warmth of the sun is putting life into everything.

Daphne approached me again and asked when the wildflowers would be out. I was going to tell her to look it in the field book she had and add two weeks. I knew the first flowers were starting to come out in the city; it’s two weeks behind. I was very polite and said not for a couple weeks. I promised her that I would keep a lookout with my eyes and let her know if if I saw anything. Crocuses are about to come out any time now. They get an early start when they are in a sheltered sunny spot. Daphne’s chumming a lot with Annie. and she’s helping out in the kitchen. I know that Annie appreciates the help. Robin is not much good company. He’s still stuck out the porch, still having a hard time of it, but not as bad as the first few days.

Everyone is thinking about the War. The news today was about the big battle in France, 30,000 Canadians. I can’t imagine 30,000 Canadian soldier all in one spot, but I do know the emptiness they’ve left behind here. Most everyone knows someone who’s there or a family who has sent one of their sons. There a family in Kearney that sent all four of their sons over in 1915. They all died the same day. The Station master, when he received the telegrams, put them all in one envelope for delivery. The mother almost had a stroke when she opened the telegram. It’s terrible enough to get one, but when the deaths of your sons are announced in one envelope that’s too much to bear.

In the afternoon, I went deep into the woods to paint another snow scene. Snow banks thawing on the north side of hill. It was one of those drifts that blew over the hill’s edge. It wasn’t a particularly inspiring composition, but I enjoyed being outside watching the birds starting to arrive. I could hear a woodpecker but I saw a few sparrows, a warbler and a robin. The gulls were circling high, high, in the sky as the rain clouds were moving in. They must have been looking for open water. The air started to feel heavy and warmer. Certainly, it will rain tonight. I’m hoping the roof does’t leak at the Lodge, on the side where the guests are, at least.

When it’s warmer in a couple of weeks I’ll take Daphne out to find some wildflowers.

April 10, 1917 Owen Sound Sun – Pictures by Sydenham Boy Worth Seeing

The Owen Sound Sun, Apr. 10, 1917

Pictures by Sydenham Boy Worth Seeing

Mr. Tom Thomson’s Pictures Show Decided Talent of Promising Artist

In every report concerning pictures exhibited by Ontario’s artists in Toronto for the past few years there has been a paragraph or sentence which, without exception, was one of praise for the pictures shown by Mr. Tom Thomson. He has been spoken of by the highest art critics as a young artist who is on the threshold of an exceptionally brilliant career, and any work he shows always receives marked praise.

Mr. Thomson’s success is of interest to Owen Sounders, for his parents reside on Fourth Avenue East, and he himself is a Sydenham boy, having lived in Leith for many years. A member of The Sun staff had the pleasure, while in Toronto recently of paying a visit to Mr. Thomson’s winter studio in Rosedale, and the visit was all that was needed to convince one that Mr. Thomson is indeed an artist whose name will be much before the public in coming years.

Mr. Thomson’s paintings are almost entirely of nature. Only in a few instances does he introduce figures, and then not with great success. But his studies of landscapes, water, clouds and trees are wonderful, both for their faithful representation of the subjects and for the unusual and even marvellous color effects. Mr. Thomson has simply hundreds of sketches, not on canvas but on boards about 9 in. by 10 in. From these he makes the larger canvases, such as the ones the Dominion and Provincial Governments have bought from him for public buildings. Seen in the small studio these could not be appreciated but when hung in proper surroundings they would no doubt be admirable.

When the artist first begins to place his smaller pictures before one, one is apt to find them too full of color – for Mr. Thomson’s use of color is what makes his work notable. There are wonderful autumn scenes, the crimson and burnished golds of leaf and vine being transposed almost too faithfully, one is apt to say at first, to canvas. There are studies of wild flowers which are exquisite and ones of rocks and still and running water which are wonderfully attractive in their color and in their character. When one has seen forty or fifty of them, there is a change in the visitor’s appreciation. The color begins to grow on one. It is all true to nature, the kind of thing you look at in the field or forest and say, “See how brilliant that is. If it were transferred to canvas some would say that the artist exaggerated.” And though at first the brilliancy rather daunts one, before the end is reached the real art in the canvases becomes apparent and the duller canvases are tame.

There was one picture which the guide of the writer secured for his own. It was a study of a flat field, and two trees. One’s leaves were of a flat mahogany, beech red. The other was a flaming yellow – the yellow of a birch on a certain kind of soil. When we first saw this the yellow and red seemed to – well, scream to us. But when we looked at it for several minutes, the grace and living fires of the trees – hundreds of times had we seen them as vivid – began to dawn on us and before we went we knew the picture was a treasure.

Mr. Thomson’s studies are nearly all made in the North Country. There are a few from this vicinity, but he finds more of the abundant color he loves in the wilderness of the northern forests, and besides, the life he is able to live there – the simple life in every truth – appeals to him. Those who are interested in pictures would greatly enjoy a visit to Mr. Thomson’s studio, and there would be few who would come away without a great deal of praise for the work of the artist.