Blodwen Davies



Paddle and Palette, by Blodwen Davies, was published by The Ryerson Press, 1930

Paddle and Palette: The Story of Tom Thomson by Blodwen Davies was published by The Ryerson Press in 1930. The notes for this 36-page sketch of the artist were taken from an upcoming biography of Thomson that Blodwen Davies was in the midst of writing.

This 5 x 8 paperback publication was the first in the series of chap-books featuring Canadian Artists. The Ryerson Press published a series of these profiles of Canadian Artists over the course of the following years. This book contains several colour images of Tom Thomson’s work including “The West Wind”, Northern River, The Drive, The Jack Pine, and November. The accompanying notes about the paintings were prepared by Arthur Lismer.




Tom Thomson’s The West Wind Many pictures are merely a reproduction of nature — a copy of a scene. This one is different. It is an interpretation of something we have experienced ourselves. We know our country through our interpreters. The poets, painters and musicians: they present aspects of life which we feel, but cannot express for ourselves. This picture is an expression of what we feel about the beauty of Canada. It is a symbol of Canadian character — sturdy, vigorous and direct. (notes by Arthur Lismer, image Courtesy The Art Gallery of Ontario)

Tom Thomson drowned in 1917, three years before the creation of The Group of Seven. In her biography, A Study of Tom Thomson: The Story of a Man who looked for Beauty and for Truth in the Wilderness, also published by The Ryerson Press in 1937, Blodwen Davies set out to portray Thomson as a man who inspired many of the artists he knew and worked with in Toronto in the early 1900s. A.Y. Jackson said of Thomson at that time  that “he was naively unaware of any significance in his work other than the personal.  He did not realize he possessed a large store of knowledge he was not using.”



Tom Thomson’s The Jack Pine Few pictures by Canadian artists have, to an equal degree, the quality of design and pattern and colour so eloquently manifested here. The artist thinks of big things first — and the design in this picture is the biggest thing in it. It is like a symphony of music. All the instruments are playing a part, and none is out of harmony with the whole. In music we must wait to hear all the movements played before we can grasp the whole, for music moves in time. In a painting we see it all at once, and, according to what we bring to it, we grasp its meaning. The theme of a painting is a movement in space. The upright lines of the tree trunk give it serenity; the horizontal lines of the shore supplement this and give it strength; the rounded masses of the hills repeat the circular rhythm of the foliage masses, giving movement and powerful rhythm to the whole composition. (notes by Arthur Lismer, image courtesy of The National Gallery of Canada.)

Thomson never lived to witness the birth of The Group of Seven. Yet he is widely credited with influencing a new creative art movement that was to take hold in Canada. It is a wonder that those around him at the time were inspired to feel nature the same way Thomson did. How many budding young artists were not willing to live the simple woodsman-life that Thomson knew and loved?

“Some day they will know what I mean,” Tom Thomson is credited with saying when his work was questioned or ridiculed. Years later, we retrace his steps in the Algonquin Region and never cease to be amazed by the splendour of the changing seasons in the northern woods of this country.

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Blodwen Davies, 1897-1966, was a Canadian journalist who began her writing career as a newspaper reporter in Fort William, now Thunder Bay, Ontario. Ms. Davies spent her early years in Montreal, with summers in Longueuil, where she absorbed a deep sense of the history of Quebec. She later moved to Ontario where she “delved into the historical records of Upper Canada and developed a keen interest in the artistic and cultural life of the day.” Davies was keen to meet and learn more about The Group of Seven and published Painter and Palette in 1930 and A Study of Tom Thompson: The Story of a Man Who Looked for Beauty and Truth in the Wilderness in 1937. Davies is considered one of Canada’s outstanding “social historians” and is the author of several books on Canadian historical events and personalities. After a brief time working in the US, Davies returned to Canada and settled in Markham, Ontario where she continued to write. Blodwen Davies died in 1966 in Cedar Grove, a community just outside Markham at the corner of Reesor Road and 14th Avenue, which is now, fittingly, within the newly formed Rouge National Urban Park.


About The Ryerson Press Archive

My name is Clive Powell. I worked for McGraw-Hill Ryerson for 35 years. Recently I was asked to find a home for 3000 publications that represent the Ryerson Press Archive. I am happy to share my discoveries.
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