May 6, 1917 Florence Leaves

May 6, 1917

Today was fine and warm. The first real warm day of spring. Today was also the day that Florence left for Ottawa. She took the morning train. I brought her up with Shannon’s wagon. The road is still a bit muddy, so Shannon didn’t want me to use his ‘luxury coach’ (a decommissioned hearse, actually). I saw Florence off. She is planning to stay with relatives in Ottawa and visit the National Gallery. She plans to see Eric Brown, the director of the Gallery. After Ottawa, she’ll go back to Whitby and is doubtful whether she’ll go back to Toronto for the next foreseeable while.

Because I was so busy, I didn’t write that much these past few days. I was spending all my time with Florence. It was her first time up North so she wanted to see the sights around the Lodge and the Hotel. She thought that Shannon was a rather odd character, and she felt a bit awkward with Annie, who seemed to be keeping an eye on her every moment. Nonetheless, she enjoyed the rustic feel of the place and said it had a similar feeling to some of the artist colonies that she stayed with while she was in Europe. I laughed, because I was the only so-called artist at this art colony, and I probably wouldn’t be there for long.

We went out sketching several times and she was quite surprised and pleased with the plein-air techniques I had been developing. I told her that, with the cold and fast changing light, once a sketch was started, there was always a feeling of urgency to complete before the scene disappeared. You needed to ignore the detail to capture the essence. She did a couple of sketches herself, which she attempted with a palette knife only (no brushes). It was quite the experiment. We didn’t keep the boards, we scraped them, and I’ll use them later on.

We talked about my paintings I left in the shack back in Toronto. We agreed that despite me saying that I was painting what I saw there was a considerable decorative aspect to the canvases. I was studying numerous Tiffany stained glass works at the time, and I admitted that I wanted to convey similar effects on the canvas by combining two dimensional foreground figure with a background composed as I had seen it. She was right. I wasn’t here to record spring as daily record. I was here to convey my feelings about spring as a daily record.

As I was waiting with her for the train, she gave me an invitation card to her next show. Mark Robinson arrived at the station to the meet the train, so I introduced Florence. Mark was very cordial and  genuinely interested in having a conversation, but the train arrived and he left to attend to the arriving passengers.

I bid Florence goodbye. I helped her with her luggage and before boarding the the train, she turned and gave me a hug and a light kiss on my cheek. She was mindful that the others on the platform were watching, and likely little Rosie from the second floor of the station. I can’t deny that it didn’t cross my mind that I should go with Florence to Ottawa. But we both knew better because of the circumstances.

When I returned my room, I put Florence’s invitation in my sketch box. I’ll keep it close at hand to remind me what I have learned from her.

2 thoughts on “May 6, 1917 Florence Leaves”

  1. Interesting that Tiffany stained glass was an influence on Tom.

    But even greater were the time constraints of the scene changing, cold weather, rain, wind, light, – no wonder he was so slap dash.

    Feels very close to home for me how solicitious Tom is to Florence, he,like I, appreciate the hugs and kisses from special friends.



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