Tom Thomson

In late fall of 1915 Tom Thomson painted four renowned paintings while camped on the nearest small island on Kawawaymog Lake with friends; Algonquin Park Ranger Tom Wattie and R.M. McComb. Thomson painted the paintings on birch wood veneer obtained from the Standard Chemical Co. planing mill in South River (Currently, the home to Bear Chair Co. producers of chairs made from Northern Ontario and Quebec pine).

Three of the paintings were given to Wattie’s daughter, Mrs. Albert “Tootsie” Cooper when she was a teenager. She inscribed two of them ‘World’s Best Artist’ and ‘World’s Greatest Artist’.

Look closely at the paintings pictured below and you will notice the birch veneer at the sides of the painting.

The Tent, Round / Lake – 1915 / painted by Tom Thomson / The World’s greatest artist; on frame.

The painting Sand Hill was painted on the road to South River by Thomson as he tramped 14 miles carrying a sketch box and gun, a fox and seven partridge which he shot that day in fall 1915 during his hunting trip .

Sand Hill on road to South River fall 1915

Dawn on Round Lake (Kawawaymog Lake), Fall 1915

Ken Cooper, Tootsie’s son, reported that while on the island, Thomson sorted through some of his sketches and wanted some burned. Tom Wattie burned the unwanted sketches. It must have been a colourful bonfire. Ken Cooper also reported that years later his mother sold one of the birch panel paintings so she could purchase a wringer washing machine.

Visit the story panel at Tom Thomson Park to see these and other paintings, Round Lake – Mud Bay, White Birches – Round Lake and The Drive, South River.

A sixth painting, Chill November was rendered by Thomson back in his Toronto studio on a large canvas after a visit to the lake in 1916. Chill November hangs in the ALIX art gallery, Sarnia.

Chill November, (Kawawaymog Lake). Alternate titles: First Snow Ducks; November; Wild Geese

Why South River? Watch the short video.