By Dorota Kozinska

Thomson died a hundred years ago this summer while on a regular painting expedition in Algonquin Park.

But his death, just before his 40th birthday, was shrouded in mystery.

He disappeared while fishing on Canoe Lake, and two days later his canoe was found, but there was no sign of Thomson.

The conclusion was that he accidentally drowned, but when his body was discovered after eight days and badly decomposed, the mystery only deepened.

Fishing line was found wrapped around his legs, and the murder theory was born. But there would be others.
Michael Markowsky: The Persistence of Doubt(lien externe)
Tom Thomson Art Gallery
841 1st Ave W
Owen Sound, ON
Curated by Heather McLeese, Curator of Temporary Exhibitions

January 15 to May 14th, 2017

 
Thomson was buried near Canoe Lake, but later exhumed, his body re-interred in the family plot in Owen Sound, Ontario.

Some time later, Judge William Little and three friends dug up the original grave and after a medical investigation determined the body to be that of an unidentified Aboriginal person, not Thomson.

Back to the present. As part of a creative project that turned into an exhibition, Michael Markowsky, an artist and professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, and sculptor Louise Solecki Weir reconstructed a head that bears a striking resemblance to the dead artist.

Based on a skull found in Thomson's original grave, it would support the theory that his grave in Owen Sound never contained his body. But what if the skull is not Thomson's, the likeness notwithstanding?

The mystery continues...

NB: For more, read The Tom Thomson Mystery by William T. Little, published in 1970 by McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Artist Michael Markowsky holding a clay facial reconstruction — that may or may not be based on Tom Thomson's skull — made by forensic artist Louise Solecki-Wier
Photo: James Masters/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network

Drawings by Michael Markowsky depicting one theory of how Tom Thomson may have died in 1917.

Photos courtesy of the artist.