The Buzz

Tweeting Tom Thomson

Categories: Art & Design, Social Media

Nearly a century after his mysterious death, the evocative work and tale of Canadian art legend Tom Thomson continue to captivate us. But have you ever wondered what he would have been like on Twitter?

Tom ThomsonTom Thomson's mysterious death contributes to his enduring appeal. (National Archives of Canada/Canadian Press)

Well, an anonymous Thomson buff well-versed in his back story is answering that very question via tweets from @TTLastSpring, intended to construct a digital diary of sorts -- approximating the artist's voice -- that details the final months before his drowning death on July 8, 1917 in Ontario's Algonquin Park.

The account's initial entries in late November mused about dreary weather, why he wasn't conscripted to fight in the First World War (flat feet) and how to finish his canvas The Jack Pine -- one of the country's most iconic, recognized paintings, now held by the National Gallery of Canada.

As the number of followers increased over the winter, @TTLastSpring continued to tweet carefully constructed updates, upload archival images and engage with Twitter followers by answering questions from those curious about his life and final days.

And this isn't some snarky, high-art spoof.

"This venture is about Tom, honouring his memory, the people who loved him and his art. It's not about me," the creator told the Globe and Mail via email.

This latest Thomson tribute comes on the heels of the Canadian spring art auction season, where his now-celebrated work is often a mainstay, and recent cultural investigations into his mystique like Roy MacGregor's compelling 2010 book Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him and Peter Raymont's documentary The West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson (currently screening at small theatres and venues across Canada).

"People are often drawn to Thomson because of the mystery of his death. It's fascinating, right? He was so young. He was at the height of his powers: he was just becoming famous and his paintings were starting to sell, he was thinking of going out West to paint the Rocky Mountains... It's 1917 and his friends are in the war -- A. Y. Jackson is over there -- and yet it's Thomson in Algonquin Park who dies," Raymont recalled in a CBC interview.

"This is that film I've always really wanted to make," he added.

Perhaps @TTLastSpring's tweet-by-tweet digital contemplation will attract a new generation of fans to the artist some described as Canada's Vincent van Gogh.

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