Thursday, May 13, 2010

Same Subject - Different Views

Tom Thomson: 'The West Wind'

Walter Phillips, Jack Pine.

The more I look at these two paintings the more I see. The top picture by Tom Thomson has assumed almost iconic stature in Canadian art. Its literally imprinted on our visual culture and it helped define how we see ourselves as a nation.
Thomson identified that part of our culture where we cut down forests and used oxen to drag stumps from grounds. It was a tough scrabble against a hostile environment that was reluctant to surrender.

Walter J Phillip's, rendering of the pine is iconoclastic. His pine tree is dead and the surrounding background is pretty beautiful. The sky is blue, and the clouds are billowing summertime, cumulous clouds.

Phillips' mindset wasn't moulded by settlers who lived in log cabins, or by Dukhoubour farmers whose women pulled ploughs, or by mennonites who pulled their belongs to Canada by Connestoga wagons, or by prairie farmers who lived in sod huts or by Chinese coulees who carried the CPR through the Rocky mountains on their backs.

Phillips was an urban immigrant. And in his mind, the ragged pine theme was a thing of the past - as dead as the tree he painted.

Two different pine trees, two different views.


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