Mowat Cemetery and the Keeper of Secrets 48" x 48" Oil on Panel. On permanent loan Ontario Parks and The Friends of Algonquin Park

Mowat Cemetery and the Keeper of Secrets 48 x 48 Oil on Panel

Mowat Cemetery and The Keeper of Secrets

I debated whether the study for this painting would make an interesting enough concept for a large studio painting, but after some pondering I came to the decision that there couldn’t be a scene much more related to the Thomson story than the place where he was, or is still buried. 

Thomson visited this little cemetery consisting of  just two headstones in 1912. He obviously thought enough of this sacred place to take a photo of the carved rock headstone of an early logger, a headstone that you can just see to the right of the ancient birch in my painting. How ironic to think that just a few years after he took this photo that he would be buried in this very same place.

The birch is what really drew me to do this painting. The large extending branches seem to reach out to embrace us. It is unbelievable that these gigantic limbs can still even hold their own weight. It is a magnificent tree. During Thomson’s time this cemetery was in a little field where you could still see down to Canoe Lake. Now the forest has grown up around it to the point where it is all but forgotten. I wanted to capture that idea or sense of quiet, of solitude. I placed the raven on the fence, not to represent death, but because the raven is known as the keeper of secrets. The raven is turned towards the place where Thomson was originally laid to rest. The raven, represents the secret of his burial. Is Thomson still quietly resting in an unmarked grave on this little hill in the forest of Algonquin Park? The mystery of Tom Thomson’s death and burial lives on. The raven has not revealed his secret.