Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Big Trees and Tom Thomson

I joined a walk with the Owen Sound Field Naturalists last Saturday, in search of some 'old growth trees' in the forests and along the rural roads nearby.  We saw a lot of big trees, which I will probably share sometime.  But the most interesting stop for me was the historic United Church in Leith - for this is where Tom Thomson, the great Canadian artist, was buried.

People still make pilgrimages to honour Thomson's grave, so this is a well visited little country church, a nice bit of wrought iron fencing across the front.

It is surrounded by a fairly large graveyard for a small country village.  Thomson grew up here in Leith, leaving when he was 21 in 1898 to pursue various jobs until he settled down as a commercial artist in Toronto.

The church itself is quite significant architecturally, built in the simple Scottish non-comformist style with no interior decoration, in 1865.  No longer used as a church, it is maintained by the Friends of Leith Church as a concert venue, with numerous events held here over the year.  Nice little church window here too!

The big trees we were here to see are those tall White Pines towering over the woods at the back of the graveyard.  Thomson's grave is the light gray upright one on the left.

The big pines were worth seeing too, two of them over 30" diameter, very large and very tall for this part of Ontario.  They remind the visitor of Thomson's love for Algonquin Park, the canoeing heart of northern Ontario where he did most of his painting.

Thomson died a tragic death in a canoeing accident in Algonquin in 1917, at the age of 40.  He is one of Canada's best known landscape painters, and strongly influenced the Group of Seven, though not a member himself.  Google 'Thomson Paintings', click on images, and you'll see some of the spectacular paintings of the north (including pine trees), for which he is so well known.

Visitors leave coins and pebbles, and nearly 100 years later someone has left a reproduction of a painting and a bouquet of used paintbrushes on his grave.

This is the historic plaque, for interest.  The local gallery is the Tom Thomson gallery, and he also had a brother who was a (less well known) painter.  My mother and her sisters knew his brother during the years they lived near Owen Sound.

Linking to:


  1. Ah, so that's where the grave is. I've loved seeing his work in the National Gallery here. And I share his love for Algonquin.

  2. Nice post and the reference to the Thompson paints was a treat.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Sorry about the comment blogger went wonky on me there lol

    Wonderful post . I didn't know where he was buried but do know of his art and that he was a Canadian and from around those areas of Ontario. I do like the old used paint brushes that have been there for 100 years at his grave a wonderful tribute to him . I wounder if at night he uses them one never knows . Thanks for sharing lovely photos ! Have a good day !

  5. I have heard a lot about the Algonquin park. It must be beautiful there. The church is pretty. The artist is new to me, he must have been well loved painter for people to visit his grave site.. Great fence shots. Thanks for sharing, have a happy day!

  6. a neat memorial for him. love that sweet and simple fence, too.

  7. How nice to be able to visit a historic site. Not familiar with the artist, but evidently very popular.

  8. Very intertesting to read about this artist. I was not familiar with his work though. I enjoyed reading about the history of the church and seeing your photos.

  9. I had to check Tom Thomson out. Wonderful! I particularly love his paintings of the birches. Thanks for introducing him to us!

  10. that's a beautiful fence but i love the brick work on the church!!! and a very interesting post, i'll have to look him up!!!!

  11. Great history tidbit on the artist Tom Thomson, loved his work.

  12. If you are interested in Tom Thomson, you might enjoy my forthcoming book (May 2016):

    THE MANY DEATHS OF TOM THOMSON: Separating Fact from Fiction

    The book is available for pre-order, as either paperback of digital download at: