Original Press Release:

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of Tom Thomson’s time in Ontario’s Algonquin Park, 1912 to 1917, Canadian Artist Gene Canning paddled and painted his way into history. He followed the same canoe routes that Canada’s most famous artist, Tom Thomson, followed 100 years ago. This three year project took Gene over hundreds of miles of rivers and lakes, as well as many miles of portages. Gene completed 150 field paintings during this time, many of them at the exact same locations where Tom created his paintings all those years ago. If an exact location couldn’t be determined, Gene based his painting locations on his and others historical research.

Gene, an avid outdoorsman himself, always traveled alone, his only companions being his canoe, his fly fishing rod, and his paints. Gene describes it this way; “I felt like I took a step into history. I wanted to see how my paintings evolved over this time period, much as his did. I wanted to explore how the park that influenced Tom Thomson so deeply, influenced me as well.  I’ve always canoed in the park but never at this level and with this type of focus. I wanted to see nature through his eyes, try to get into his head, to achieve a better understanding of  his thought process, to discover what I believe, only another artist can. What motivated him, or in essence drove him to stop and paint the subjects he did, and with such passion. I became so consumed by this idea that I even purchased an antique paint box similar to his, as well as an antique Chestnut canoe, the same make of canoe that Tom purchased in 1915 to travel through the park ”.  Gene goes on to clarify though; “there is one part of Tom Thomson’s Park experience I thankfully didn’t follow, his mysterious death that clear summer day on Canoe Lake”.

The idea for this adventure came about while Gene was teaching art at Camp Tanamakoon in Algonquin Park this fall. The camp’s owner, Kim Smith, was giving a talk on the Tom Thomson mystery at the time of Gene’s revelation regarding the historical significance of next year. The realization that 1912 is the 100 year anniversary of Thomson’s first trip into the Park. Gene, a lover of art and history, had painted at the site of Tom Thomson’s famous painting Jack Pine a few years ago. He was struck by the connection he felt to history when sitting and painting on the exact spot that this famous Canadian artwork was created almost a century earlier.  That single painting sprouted an idea, one Gene dedicated 3 years of his life to.

Kim Smith, art collector and the owner of two well known Algonquin Park landmarks, Camp Tanamakoon and Bartlett Lodge, immediately saw the value of this project and therefore agreed to sponsor Gene on this historic journey into the world of art. The irony of their partnership was ot lost on the pair, as Tom Thomson was sponsored in a similar manner, 100 years previous by art collector, Dr. MacCallum. As part of their arrangement, Gene has enthusiastically agreed to take some of the young campers from Camp Tanamakoon on several of these excursions, a chance to paint alongside him. He says with a smile, “the art

teacher in me couldn’t resist sharing this educational experience with these young people. What a great way to get them interested in nature as well as Canada’s art

history. ”

Gene is now writing a book on his experiences and what he learned about Tom Thomson while he was On the Trail of Tom Thomson.  He is also preparing for a tour of his art, beginning in June and July 2017 at the Algonquin Art Centre, in the heart of Algonquin Park. Details to follow.  In November 2017 the exhibit will move to the Algonquin Visitor’s Centre and will remain on exhibit through to the end of April 2018. Other exhibits expected in the months in between.