Why is The Jack Pine Canada's most famous painting?

On Dec. 14, 1995 CBC Midday produced an evergreen lesson in art history, asking the National Gallery of Canada's Colin Bailey to introduce viewers to Tom Thomson's The Jack Pine. Watch the video, which provides viewers with some key questions to ask themselves when looking at the Group of Seven masterwork.

An evergreen lesson in art history from this day in 1995

The Jack Pine is one of Tom Thomson's most recognizable works. Oil on canvas, Tom Thomson, 1916-1917. (National Gallery of Canada)

It's possibly the best known painting by a Canadian artist, but why? On this day in 1995, CBC Midday took the audience inside the National Gallery of Canada to find Tom Thomson's The Jack Pine. There, the NGC's Colin Bailey told the story behind the Group of Seven masterwork, sharing what he sees when he takes in Thomson's view of Carcajou Bay. 

But this video is about getting you to ask yourself that same question. What do you see when you look The Jack Pine?

So, on that point, Bailey offers some thoughtful questions anyone can ask when viewing the piece.

For example, ask yourself: why is this an iconic work? For Bailey, as he says in the clip: "It still impresses and excites us by its heroic proportions, its brilliant design and composition the richness of its brush strokes and the vivacity of its colour."

What does the painting tell us about the environment? 

And, in Bailey's words, "Is this an image of heroism, or is it an image of nostalgia?"

"It's for you to decide."

Watch the video, then find CBC Arts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Tell us what you think!

For more throwbacks like this one, visit the CBC Digital Archives.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?