The original roots man: landscape, nationalism and dress
thesisposted on 22.05.2021, 16:10 by Ariana Ho
The landscape paintings of Canadian artist Tom Thomson have long been a part of the Canadian canon of art. The Group of Seven, Emily Carr and Tom Thomson have produced images of the Canadian wilderness that continue to capture the imagination of Canadians to this day. After nearly a hundred years since the passing of Tom Thomson in 1917, the mythology surrounding the artist continues to develop as he plays an important role within Canadian cultural memory and consciousness as a quintessential Canadian icon. Some scholars have argued that the Thomson myth has less to do with the art that he produced, and have more to do with the prevalent ideas and values that were projected onto his life after his mysterious death at Canoe Lake. In the summer of 2014, Canadian lifestyle brand Roots Canada Ltd. released the Tom Thomson collection, which sought to recognize the artist’s life and works, as the “Original Roots Man”. The narrative revolving around Tom Thomson, national identity and the wilderness may appear to truly represent Canadian life and reality given its repetition within discourses of mass culture and in the recent Roots collection. However, as this Major Research Paper (MRP) proposes, the Thomson myth speaks of larger themes having to do with how Canadians think about identity, gender, space and history and their place in it. This MRP explores the convergence of nationalism, antimodernism, the differentiation of space, and the commodification of heritage through Roots’ 2014 Tom Thomson Collection. Ultimately, this MRP argues that the Roots Tom Thomson Collection serves as an example of the commodification of heritage that provides a limited vision of Canada.