George Thomson
(1868 - 1965)

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Winter on the Marshes

Harbor Scene


George Thomson was born on February 10, 1868 at Claremont, Ontario. He was the eldest son of John and Margaret Thomson who were pioneers of the Leith area. They had 5 sons (George, Ralph, Fraser, Thomas John, Henry) and four daughters (Elizabeth, Minnie, Louise and Margaret). All five sons and one daughter became painters.

George Thomson attended the Canadian Business College in Chatham, Ontario and then spent a year of clerical work at a Detroit lumber company. For approximately fifteen years, he was part owner and teacher in a commercial college in Seattle, Washington known as the Acme Business College. In 1899 he entered law school, and in 1901 took a degree at the University of Washington because he wanted a good general education that he believed was crucial if he were to be of value as a teacher.

At the age of 38 he became interested in painting and decided to make a career of art. He went to New York to study at the Art Student's League and, to support himself, worked nights as a book keeper and as a cashier in a social club. He followed this with two summers at the Lyme Artist's Colony in Connecticut and there studied with Frank V. Dumond, W. L. Lathrop and H. R. Poore.

In 1908 he moved to Old Lyme, Connecticut and the Artist's Colony there, and in 1911, he settled at New Haven, Connecticut where he worked as a bookkeeper for the Union League during the day and painted at night and on weekends. It was in New Haven, Connecticut that he spent the next 16 years in close proximity to influences and stimulation of the Lyme Colony of Artists on the Connecticut River.

In 1926 he returned to Canada, settled in Owen Sound at 591 Eighth Avenue East and began to win fame as a painter of northern Ontario landscapes. It was at this point, at the age of 58, that he made the decision to take up painting as a full time career. He was soon able to sell enough paintings to live off the proceeds alone.

A member of the Ontario Society of Artists, he won a firm place among Canadian painters. In the year of his death he was considered to be Canada's oldest active artist. The day prior to his passing he spent sketching with his brother, Fraser, at Lion's Head and Barrow Bay.

His work was purchased for private and public collections. He exhibited at the Royal Canadian Academy, the Ontario Society of Artists, the Montreal Art Association, the Western Ontario Exhibition and in the United States at the National Academy of Design in New York as well at the Art Institute of Chicago.

For fifteen years beginning in 1936 his work was sold through the G. Blair Laing Galleries on Bloor street and prior to this at J. Merritt Maloney Galleries on Grenville Street, Toronto. He also held exhibitions at the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery in Owen Sound. This Gallery presented a major retrospective of his work in 1996.

In Canada he painted the country of Georgian Bay and the North shore, Haliburton Highlands, Muskoka and Parry Sound.

He was active in the United Church in Owen Sound, a member of the choir and was a benefactor of the Grey County Historical and Art Society (a precursor of the Tom Thomson Memorial Gallery).

An accomplished musician he played the piano, violin and clarinet.


Submitted to September 2003, from Robert Britnell.




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