Tom Thom­son paint­ing turns up at yard sale

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

YOU usu­ally don’t find Tom Thom­son paint­ings at a yard sale.

But one may have turned up re­cently, along with a wa­ter­colour by Group of Seven mem­ber Fred­er­ick Hors­man Var­ley.

The lucky buyer walked away with two paint­ings for $100, then took them to May­nard’s Auc­tions in Van­cou­ver. May­nard’s is putting the paint­ing up for auc­tion May 16, with an es­ti­mate of $150,000 to $250,000.

The man who dis­cov­ered the paint­ings doesn’t want to go public, but Kate Bell­ringer of May­nard’s says he’s a “reg­u­lar guy” who said he pur­chased the paint­ings on “an im­pulse.”

He brought them into May­nard’s in Jan­uary in a shop­ping bag. Bell­ringer thought the Thom­son looked real, but checked it out be­fore putting it up for sale.

“I con­tacted lo­cal ex­perts, and ex- perts across Canada,” she said. “I even took the paint­ing across the coun­try to Toronto. The con­sen­sus among ex­perts that have seen the paint­ing is that it is au­then­tic, and that it is a Tom Thom­son.”

She de­clined to iden­tify the ex­perts whom she con­sulted, but said they thought it was painted in the spring or sum­mer of 1915.

Canada’s fore­most Thom­son ex­pert, Joan Mur­ray, de­clined to talk about the paint­ing when con­tacted Thurs­day.

One of Van­cou­ver’s top art deal­ers, Tor­ben Kris­tiansen of the Art Em­po­rium, said he hadn’t seen the paint­ing in per­son, but is some­what skep­ti­cal about it.

“This is not like a Thom­son that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen dozens of them over the years,” said Kris­tiansen.

Kris­tiansen said fakes crop up ev­ery now and again.

The Thom­son paint­ing at May­nard’s is a small oil-on-board sketch mea­sur­ing about eight by 11 inches. It de­picts a hilly shore­line along a lake, topped by a swirling mass of clouds coloured blue, pink, pur­ple and white.

“I think it was prob­a­bly painted from his ca­noe, be­cause there’s no fore- ground,” said Bell­ringer. “He’s out on this placid lake, and it looks like it’s just af­ter sunrise to me.”

It didn’t have a frame when it came in to May­nard’s, and Thom­son’s name is barely leg­i­ble in the right-hand corner.

“It’s a par­tial sig­na­ture,” said Bell­ringer. “You can see T-o-m, and then the Thom­son is a lit­tle harder to make out. We had the paint­ing cleaned, and the con­ser­va­tor said that it ap­peared some­one had cleaned the paint­ing (ear­lier) who was less ex­pe­ri­enced, and that could be why part of the sig­na­ture has been re­moved.”

Thom­son drowned in 1917 af­ter only paint­ing for a few years, so his work is quite rare.

Hef­fel auc­tion house holds the record sale price for a Thom­son paint­ing: $2,749,500 for the 1917 sketch, Early Spring, Ca­noe Lake.

Thom­son paint­ing in ques­tion.

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