Lawren Harris Likes Van Gogh

March 14, 1917

Lawren Harris likes Van Gogh.

He spoke of Van Gogh during his time in Berlin. If I hadn’t known otherwise, it seemed like Lawren had actually met Vincent himself. If it were case, I’m sure that he would have given Vincent a few dollars and a bottle of whisky to make it to month’s end. Truthfully, I am also fascinated by Van Gogh. I learned what I could from the books at the library, but Lawren gave me the real tips he learned in Europe.

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German Scare

March 11, 1917

I had a strange visitor today. He didn’t tell me his name, but he knew mine well enough. And he knew that I knew the Park inside and out.

‘You know the Park. That’s good. We might need you there.’

I had no inkling what he was talking about.

He explained he was part of the Canadian Corp of Guides. Never heard of them.
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Winnie

I know you’re all wondering on what I have to say about Winnie. I shouldn’t reveal too much here as this is a big part of the story which you will learn in due time. Winnifred Trainor was set out to be one of the major tragic figures of the story, but she had her hand in the tragedy too. So let’s be clear. As I was not the mythic figure, she was not the tragic figure, either.

Winnie was 27 years old when I first met her in 1912. I was 34. At this age she was considered to be a spinster and at my age, I was a bachelor but the state of bachelorhood was much less called into question than spinsterhood. Men were expected to be free until such time they decided to settle down. This was not the case for women, and I believe this had a bearing on her parents’ view of her and of me.

To be sure, we had a grand time together. Each time going up North, I enjoyed her company as she was not like the other women. Practical (and mathematical she could tally a bill in her head with no paper and pencil), she had an equal love of the outdoors that she shared with me. We spent many pleasant hours together, fishing and canoeing. Her family came to know me well and had the (unstated) expectation that the relationship would become more formal one day.

Starting on the West Wind

March 10, 1917

Canvas are tough work. I hope to do my last canvas before I go North. I was looking through my sketches in the Shack (over 300) and decided to use the one I made when I was a Ranger in the Park last fall. I painted this sketch at Grand Lake when I was with Ed Godin. What I like most about this sketch is the shape of the tree. This tree was alone on the rocks and it was a windy day.
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Letter to Lismer, June 29, 1917

Dear Arthur,

I hope this letter finds you well.

I have done no sketching since the flies started. I have been doing some guiding but not as much as I would like. I had some Americans a couple of weeks ago and I have had some political men from Ottawa. There’s word that the Province might allow deer hunting to feed the troops at the front. There’s lots of deer, some are calling it an infestation, like the wolves, better to be eliminated for good of mankind, they say. I’m not sure of that. I get along with the wildlife quite well. Continue reading “Letter to Lismer, June 29, 1917”

1917 OSA Spring Exhibition and I Sent Nothing.

The 45th Spring Exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists is all set to open this upcoming Friday, March 9th.

I sent nothing this year. I’ll tell you the reasons why.

I had exhibited in OSA exhibitions previous years: 1913, 1914, 1915, and 1916. I had also exhibited at the Toronto C.N.E Exhibition, and most recently in Montreal. At first I was very enthusiastic to participate. To become member of the OSA was an honour. It was a validation of sort, but the honour started to wear off when I attended the socials. I felt like an uneducated fraud.

Despite the encouragement , if not outright pressure from Jim and Dr. MaCallum, I refused to budge. I had enough of the critics, especially the fierce attack by Carl Ahrens. Despite being quite satisfied by my works, I don’t feel up to the barrage, There are two things worse than having your name spelled wrong in the newspaper (“Thompson”) it’s being called a hermaphrodite or being served with a white feather.

Talk of conscription is louder than ever. Borden is in England and it’s a surety that when he returns, he’ll make the call up mandatory. Despite the white feather treatment, no one is volunteering anymore. I did have some enthusiasm at the beginning of the war, but after reading Jackon’s letter and seeing the endless reels at the Regent. I’ve determined it’s all a rotten waste.

With all that going about, sending something to the Exhibition is like fiddling while Rome is burning. I am going on to being four months in Tornto, after seven months away – my longest absence ever.

I need to leave soon and I might never return