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The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson

por Gregory Klages

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"Commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of Tom Thomson's death, cultural historian Gregory Klages offers the deepest look to date at the historical record, testimony, and archives about the artist's tragic and mysterious demise. Putting the whole range of theories under examination, he separates truth from legend in this great Canadian mystery."--… (mais)
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The definitive solution to a hundred year old puzzle

It is unfortunate that Tom Thomson is renowned at least as much for his death as for his art. His art is stunning, unique and lauded worldwide. His death was early, sudden and unwitnessed, which has led to an entire industry of theories, books and stories.

Thomson was a natural. Without formal training or apprenticeship, he developed a style of landscape painting that is world class, and in only five years. In France, a critic of Thomson’s work noted that “any landscape ever painted in France made you feel the presence of man, but that in Canadian landscapes you feel his absence.” Thomson caught the real, natural, vacant Canada whose unsurpassed beauty has never been represented better. Tom Thomson would make God proud of his work.

Klages is very precise. He has examined all the available evidence, compared it among the rapporteurs and against original documents. His fact checking is intensive, extensive and impressive. His findings are just as precise: Tom Thomson must have slipped, hit his head on a rock, log or gunwale, and drowned. At the scene, in 1917, there was no disagreement or alternate scenario considered. It was obvious, and there was no evidence whatsoever for other intrigues. It was really only in the 1930s that the rot started to set in. Over the decades, more and more phony stories appeared, and much like internet facts, the more places they appeared, the more truthful they became. By this century, it was out of control, with books, songs and even a board game. Authors who got it wrong the first time came back with new offerings making it even worse: drunken fights the night before, threats that never occurred, a (non) pregnancy and forced wedding to avoid, an empty coffin sent home – all published to credible reception. This included tv investigative shows, docudramas, news magazines and book. The facts seemed hardly to matter. We make up stories, write them down, and believe them.

The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson is almost a courtroom drama of evidence and witnesses. It is fair, balanced, and clear. You are definitely there at the scene, and you get to know all the characters thoroughly and intimately. There simply can’t be more than this; it is definitive. We can only hope.

David Wineberg ( )
  DavidWineberg | Apr 8, 2016 |
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"Commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of Tom Thomson's death, cultural historian Gregory Klages offers the deepest look to date at the historical record, testimony, and archives about the artist's tragic and mysterious demise. Putting the whole range of theories under examination, he separates truth from legend in this great Canadian mystery."--

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