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Inventing Tom Thomson

Since his drowning in 1917, Tom Thomson has been recreated by poets, playwrights, novelists, filmmakers, biographers, and other artists as a legendary figure synonymous with Canada and its northern identity. Touted as a great artist cut off in his prime, his mysterious death in Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, and the controversy about his final resting-place fired the popular imagination and raised him to the status of a national hero. In "Inventing Tom Thomson" Sherrill Grace examines many of the ways in which the figure of Thomson has been imagined by Canadians. Even people who do not know his paintings well will recognize "The Jack Pine" and know his legend through the marketing of Thomson memorabilia on the Web, in museums, and in stores.
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An examination of Canadian identity through our cultural obsession with iconic painter Tom Thomson

About the Author

Sherrill E. Grace is professor of English at the University of British Columbia where she holds the Brenda and David McLean Chair in Canadian Studies. She has published books on Margaret Atwood, literary expressionism, Canadian drama, and Malcolm Lowry, including Lowry's "Collected Letters", and is the author of "Canada and the Idea of North" and the editor of Mina Benson Hubbard's "A Woman's Way Through Unknown Labrador."


"Grace's investigation into the "invention" of Tom Thomson is a compelling tour not only into the making of a cultural phenomenon, but into the myth of Canada itself. From the various biographical treatments of Thomson, which have become increasingly obse "The title says it all - the process of inventing Tom Thomson continues. In this remarkable essay, not the man, nor the artist, but the icon co-opted into our national narrative is given wings as we watch him soar into the sun." John Moss, professor of English, University of Ottawa, is the author of Invisible Among the Ruins, The Paradox of Meaning, and other books "This is a compelling book on myth-making and identity. Reversing the usual direction of investigative research, Inventing Tom Tomson analyzes the disorderly repertoire of stories about the artist's life rather than the canonized repertoire of his paintings. To paraphrase one of the author's central arguments, had the book not been written, it would have to have been invented." John O'Brian, professor of art history, University of British Columbia

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