The McMichael delivers ‘love letter’ to Tom Thomson and Canada with July 1 opening of Passion Over Reason: Tom Thomson and Joyce Wieland


Kleinburg, ON—The McMichael Canadian Art Collection (the McMichael) presents a major exhibition featuring the works of one of Ontario’s greatest painters, Tom Thomson (1877-1917), and feminist art pioneer Joyce Wieland (1931-1998). Passion Over Reason: Tom Thomson and Joyce Wieland will open to the public this Canada Day, followed by a special weekend festival starting on July 8, 2017, which will mark the centennial of Tom Thomson’s death. This commemorative exhibition, debuting on the nation’s 150th birthday, runs until November 19, 2017 and spans four galleries at the McMichael.

Tom Thomson, a contemporary of the Group of Seven whose love for nature is demonstrated through his landscape paintings, died mysteriously on Canoe Lake at the young age of 39.

Passion Over Reason takes a critical approach to Canada’s fascination with Thomson, his status as a cult figure of masculine mystique, and the mystery and mythology of his life story that has cast a virile, woodsy painter as the embodiment of quiet, Canadian resilience. Taking cues from the eye of Joyce Wieland, who imbued her vision of Thomson and Canada with overt femininity, love and sex, and whose work encourages one to let go of the story of Thomson as a lone man-of-the-woods, Passion Over Reason confirms what Wieland pointed to in the 1970s: Thomson is Canada.

“Consider this exhibition to be a love letter to Tom Thomson and Canada—two subjects at the core of this sesquicentennial year—and a conversation between masterworks by Thomson and Wieland,” said the McMichael’s Chief Curator, Dr. Sarah Stanners.

For the special occasion, the McMichael will display nearly all its rich holdings of Thomson paintings, drawings, photographs and personal objects. A dynamic installation will present the works of Thomson—some familiar, some unexpected— interwoven with works by Wieland, who freely expressed her fascination with Thomson and love for Canada through her masterwork quilts, drawings, paintings and photographs. Her feature-length film The Far Shore, which is interpreted as an allegory about love, Tom Thomson, and the tensions between English and French Canada, will screen on demand in the McMichael’s Theatre. Her experimental film Reason Over Passion will show on continuous loop within the exhibition space.

The title of the exhibition is a deliberate reversal of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s oft-quoted personal motto, “Reason Over Passion.” Wieland befriended the Trudeaus in the ’60s and ’70s, and even gave the family the French version of her Reason Over Passion quilt.

With a focus on nationality, gender and sexuality, Passion Over Reason presents a new perspective on two trailblazing Canadian artists. This exploration will also include a series of commissioned artworks by Zachari Logan, a contemporary artist responding to the lore of Tom Thomson. This established Canadian artist will be at work in the Tom Thomson Shack from June 26 to July 8.

This year’s unveiling of Passion Over Reason: Tom Thomson and Joyce Wieland coincides with the 150th anniversary of Ontario as a province and Canada as a nation. A cultural institution, the McMichael celebrates The Art of Canada* with a major exhibition dedicated to two groundbreaking Ontario-born artists who have contributed immensely to the development of Canadian art.

The McMichael has received financial assistance from Ontario150, and the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, as well as support from Exhibition Sponsor, RBC; 150th Anniversary Partners, Assante Wealth Management Group of Seven Wealth Advisors, Miller Thomson, and the McMichael Volunteer Committee.


Media Contacts:

Simona Panetta
Media Relations and Communications Coordinator
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
905.893.1121 ext. 2210
spanetta-kerr at

Nick Foglia
Director, Communications, Marketing and Sales
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
905.893.1121 ext. 2265
nfoglia at