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Unravelling the 105-year-old mystery of the death of 'Tom Thomson'

A group of emerging artists from North Shore are unravelling the mystery of the death of Canadian painter, Tom Thomson, in a play for the upcoming Vancouver Fringe Theatre Festival from Sept. 8 to Sept. 18.
Tom Thomson Country
Cast members of Tom Thomson is Missing, rehearsing at Confederation Park, Burnaby.

So, what happened to Tom Thomson?

On a beautiful July morning in 1917, Canadian painter Tom Thomson vanished in Algonquin Park's Canoe Lake.

A century later, with numerous speculations about foul play and accidents, his death still stands as one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the country. 

As the first artist to provide a visual form to Canadian landscapes, Thomson was a prominent figure in the history of art in Canada, setting a precedent for other Canadian artists. Due to the nature of his disappearance and death, storytellers have always been fascinated by the mystery surrounding what happened to him.

A group of emerging artists from the North Shore participating in a play, Tom Thomson is Missing, are exploring the story of the painter, and unravelling the mystery. The play opens on Sept. 9 in the Vancouver Fringe festival

Writer-director Gregory Strong, a Burnaby resident, shares the love for Thomson's work, which led to his desire to explore the story. 

"When people look at his art, they can't help thinking like, Oh, my God, this is beautiful," he said. "I wish I could see more of it."

He compares the Canadian artist to another revolutionary artist, Vincent van Gogh, whose life was also cut short.

"Tom Thomson is 'the road not taken' for me," Strong said. "Tom Thompson gave up his career as a commercial designer and just lived in the wilderness to paint. So he's the most daring of all artists who completely gave himself to his work."

Strong looks up to the Canadian painter for "sacrificing himself for his art," and credits him as a huge influence on his own works. 

The Burnaby writer-director hopes that the play would tie up loose ends in the life and death of Tom Thomson, albeit in the fictional world, and inspire the audience to appreciate the beauty of nature in the way the painter did.

Vancouver Fringe festival 

Where: The Covered Picnic Area, 267 Old Bridge Walk, Granville Island

When: Sept. 8 to Sept. 11 6:15 p.m. & Sept. 15 to Sept. 18 5 p.m.

Cost: $15 for the play plus $10 for festival membership