A Canadian Icon and Your Subway Commute

The Yonge Subway is reportedly the second busiest transit line in North America. Over 750,000 riders a day use that part of the Red Rocket. If you are one of them ... next time you are headed north, departing the Bloor Station, count to 20 and look to your right.  As the train exits the "Ellis Portal" and emerges into the light of the Rosedale valley, the very first thing you will see is a three story art deco building with lots of glass -- the Studio Building at 25 Severn , designed by Eden Smith and built in 1914, and designated a National Historic Site in 2005.

One hundred years ago this month -- February 1917 -- in a small wooden shed behind that building, Tom Thomson was painting.  He was working away on this:

Tom Thomson,   The West Wind,   1917   Art Gallery of Ontario

Tom Thomson, The West Wind, 1917   Art Gallery of Ontario

The West Wind is arguably Canada's most iconic painting.  Thomson had done the plein air sketch for West Wind the previous summer in Algonquin Park.  As the Toronto winter dragged on that year, Thomson looked forward to returning to Algonquin in late March where he would begin a series of "boards" to chronicle the arrival of Spring in the north. When he left the shed that March he would not return. Sadly, he had only a little over four months to live. After his untimely death on July 8th, 1917,  friends discovered West Wind, leaning up against a wall by his easel in the shed.