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 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.”
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.
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.