North Star: In its final week

North Star: In its final week

Tom Thomson: North Star, an exhibition extraordinaire, is in its final week at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg, Ontario. The show which opened June 24, 2023, and includes more than 130 pieces of oil sketches and paintings, will close this Sunday, January 14, 2024. This is the first major exhibition of the work of Canada’s iconic artist Tom Thomson, and includes pieces from the McMichael permanent collection, the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario as well as other museums and private collections.

For information on the show click here.

There are also some very informative videos on the McMichael Youtube page. 

Visiting this exhibition occupied space on my to-do list since I first learned of the exhibit. I held two reasons for wanting to see this showing. First, I love the work of Tom Thomson, and second, I was contacted some time ago by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection to see if I would provide them with one-time publishing rights to my photograph of the Tom Thomson memorial and totem pole on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. They said they were going to use it in the promotion of the show. I wanted to see how they used it. 

On January 3rd I drove to Kleinberg to see the show. The first thing I did was check the literature for my image but there was no sign of it. They had told me they were going to send me a copy of the brochure but it never came and not seeing my image on any of the literature I concluded they had changed their mind and decided Thomson’s painting Jack Pine was a better promotional piece. I sure couldn’t argue with that. 

I walked up the ramp to the second floor of the gallery. The exhibit Tom Thomson North Star began in the second room. The North Star exhibit occupied gallery rooms 10 through 12. I began by watching a video in the Founders Lounge and then spent the next couple hours being mesmerized and educated by the genius of this iconic Canadian treasure. 

Tom Thomson painting Georgian Bay 1914
Georgian Bay 1914. It was around the time of 1914 Thomson’s work became more vibrant and colourful. Notice the detail and strong brush and knife work.

Tom Thomson painting Canoe Lake and islands. 1916
This is Thomson’s 1916 painting of Canoe Lake and Islands. It is my opinion this was painted from the high hills on the west side of Canoe Lake, almost where the memorial to Thomson is today. Notice the reflective colours in the water.
Tom Thomson's painting Split Rock Gap1914
Split Rock Gap, Georgian Bay 1914.
Tom Thomson painting Split Rock Island Georgian Bay.
Split Rock Island 1914, Georgian Bay by Tom Thomson.
Tom Thomson's oil sketch "The Jack Pine"
Because they could not take large boards or canvases on their journies into the interiors they would take multiple smaller boards and do “sketches” that would be used to create finished paintings when they were back in their studios.
"The Jack Pine" by Tom Thomson
Tom Thomson’s famous painting “The Jack Pine” 1916-17

Notice the perspective difference between the “oil sketch” and the finished painting. The sketch is horizontal whereas the finished painting is vertical, almost square. The far shore of Grand Lake appears to be closer in the finished painting. When I visited this site I had difficulty identifying the background in the painting to the shoreline and now I understand why. 

You can read about my journey to the location of “The Jack Pine” here

Tom Thomson painting "Evening, Pine Island"
This was the first time I had seen “Evening, Pine Island – 1914” and it struck me because of the feeling of the warmth of the light on the bark of the trees and the colour of the clouds.

Before leaving I went into the galley store where I debated purchasing a copy of their book Tom Thomson North Star. I decided it would be great for reference and educational value. I made the purchase and headed for home.


I told Jan about the book when I got home and together we sat down and went through it. You cannot possibly imagine my delight when we turned a page and found a full-page image that looked familiar.


The exhibit closes this Sunday, January 14th and if you have the opportunity I encourage you to make the time to take in this showing. It has been 20 years since a display of this magnitude has been shown of Thomson’s work. Who knows when there might be another? Do it now.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I found your blog, and The Totem Pole. I will have to investigate this further. Thank-you for sharing.

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