researchers curate data so that
scholars may address the challenges that face us all
The leading Tom Thomson scholar, Joan Murray was responsible for bringing the paintings of this visionary Canadian painter to the world’s attention through a series of exhibitions and books, including a biography. She has prepared a full-scale catalogue raisonné of his work, a project which took her close to forty years.
“In 1970, I began this catalogue raisonné of Thomson’s work and I have continued it until 2009. As I worked, I became convinced that Thomson’s achievement had the almost too classic prerequisites of greatness: an indelible yet flexible visual style that extended the past, reflected its own time, and stayed fresh and relevant as it moved into the future. During these decades, I found that what I considered the value of his work changed for me. At times Thomson’s enormous gifts for colour and composition, bolstered by an underlying urgency, seemed most pertinent to the triumphant progress of Abstraction, and to Expressionism, as it once again became part of the stylistic mix of younger artists. Later, the life he lived in nature came to seem of importance: I noticed that many contemporary artists embraced the landscape almost as part of their calling.
“From 1970 on, I had the work of Thomson in private collections brought into the Art Gallery of Ontario to be photographed. In examining this material, and the Gallery collection of works by Thomson, I found myself fascinated with the inscriptions (often written by Dr. J.M. MacCallum, Thomson’s great patron and friend), on the backs of works and I began to believe they were important to the record. After I left the Gallery and became Director of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa from 1974 to 2000, and afterwards, I continued to record Thomson inscriptions and labels wherever I could, especially in works as they appeared at auction and in private collections. Even in 2009, incredibly it seemed to me, genuine Thomsons came my way to be recorded. Like every cataloguer who attempts omnipotence, the discovery of this work helped me realize my shortcomings. I would like to believe that I have included all the works by Tom Thomson that exist, but I realize that the field is open. New material will show up with time.”