"Birch Grove Algonquin Park"
Tom Thomson, "Birch Grove Algonquin Park," 1915, oil on board, 10.5" x 8.5"
TOM THOMSON (1877-1917)
A popular misconception is that Tom Thomson was a member of the Group of Seven. He wasn’t, although he is considered one of Canada’s most important artists and is credited with influencing – even instigating – the Group’s distinct approach to portraying the Canadian landscape.
In 1907, at the age of 30, Thomson joined the staff of Grip Ltd., a Toronto graphic arts studio. The firm’s head designer, artist-poet J.E.H. MacDonald, contributed greatly to Thomson’s artistic development during the following six years, as did his fellow employees: Arthur Lismer, Fred Varley, Franklin Carmichael, and Franz Johnston.
Thomson made his first sketching trip to Algonquin Park in 1912 and from 1914 to 1917 he spent each spring, summer and fall there, becoming an expert canoeist and woodsman, sketching, firefighting, and acting as a guide to park visitors and his artist friends. During the winters he returned to Toronto to paint his bold, expressive northern Ontario vistas.
Thomson’s death by drowning in July 1917 remains a mystery. His five Grip Ltd. colleagues, together with Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson, formed the Group of Seven in 1920.
Birch Grove, Algonquin Park was painted by Thomson in 1915, at the peak of his creative talents. Originally owned jointly by Thomson’s sister and brother, the painting was acquired by Toronto art dealer Blair Laing in 1936. It was subsequently purchased by Peter Bronfman in 1966, at which time its fair market value was estimated at $9,000.
“Probably fewer than a dozen Thomson panels from his prime time of 1915 to 1917 are floating around in today’s market,” says Rod Green of Masters Gallery in Calgary, which recently acquired the painting and sold it to a private collector. Green estimates the value of Birch Grove, Algonquin Park today is in the range of $350,000 to $400,000.