Even with the indisputable knowledge that it could not be from the artist himself, the inbox notification still provides a kind of momentary thrill: “Tom Thomson is now following you on Twitter!” More thrilling is the act of following the account, with historically accurate (or plausible) twitter-length updates on Thomson’s activities during the last months of his life.
“Winnie and I are spending a lot of time together,” reads a tweet dated April 26, referencing Thomson’s love interest Winnifred Trainor. “A good Huntsville girl she is – and she knows how to fish.”
@TTLastSpring is no satirical prank account: these aren’t Canadian art in-jokes; this is a tweet-by-tweet guide to the artist’s last spring, leading up to his mysterious 1917 death in Ontario’s Algonquin Park. Like the Twitter account recounting the events of the Second World War in real time, the tweets have been carefully constructed based on historical information.
Even if it’s impossible to imagine a present-day Thomson laying down his brush to tweet from his canoe, the missives borrow directly from his life – things that actually happened or would be plausible given the historical time frame and Thomson’s character.
Last week was a big week for him. His last known sketch, After the Storm, was made May 24, 1917. “A spectacular thunderstorm. A violet sky against the deep green of late spring” read a tweet sent on Thursday. A photo of the sketch was also tweeted. And a list of tweets Thursday documented purchases made at his spring show on that date. “Daphne Crombie selects Path Behind Mowatt Lodge/ She says I have not signed it. I scratch in my name with a nail.”
So who’s the Canadian art/history buff with the dream of creating the ghost of Tom Thomson on Twitter? Can’t say. To add to the mystery, the tweeter has insisted on anonymity.
“This venture is about Tom, honouring his memory, the people who loved him and his art. It's not about me,” he wrote in an e-mail.
He stays in character, engaging with other tweeps who have questions about art or fishing or other aspects of Thomson’s life. “Shouldn’t you be fighting in the war or something?” wrote one follower. @TTLastSpring’s response: “ Flat feet prevented me from fighting the Great War.” (True.)
At the heart of the project is Thomson’s mysterious death. He was last seen alive around midday on July 8, 1917. Accident? Suicide? Foul play? And if murder, who was the perpetrator?
The mystery tweeter has an “alternative theory” about how Thomson met his demise. While building up an accurate timeline to support the theory, he came up with the idea to tweet the timeline.
“After July 8th at 12:50 pm I hope to reconstruct the circumstances as best I can, so the real truth can come out,” he writes. “If I am not successful this year, I will repeat the cycle next year.”