Tom Thomson Painting Attacked by Protesters in Canada

Tom Thomson Painting is One More in Series Attacks Executed by Climate Protesters, This Time at the National Gallery of Canada.

Aug 29, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Tom Thomson, National Gallery of Canada.
National Gallery of Canada, via Angelita Mas.


Thom Thomson painting – another one attacked by climate protesters, which threw pink paint on it. The incident occurred at the National Gallery of Canada. As we know, climate activists around the world have been organizing such “activities” for several months to draw attention to environmental problems. This time, the protesters are demanding a national firefighting service.


Tom Thomson Painting Attacked in Order to Address Fire Damage

into the northland tom thompson
Into the Northland by Tom Thompson, 1915-16, via Montreal Museum of Fine Arts


An environmental organization is most often behind the activists, and this time it is the group On2Ottawa. The man applying a pink paint is Kaleb Suedfeld, 28. Facebook video shows him splashing the paint on the painter’s Northern River art piece, from 1915. He also went down on his knees and glued his hands to the floor, after which he took a letter from his pocket and red it.


“Fossil fuel industries are destroying the work of art that is our planet and our government is firmly in their grip, doing nothing to stop their crimes”, Suedfeld said. Then, he spoke about the damaged caused by fire in forests – many people evacuated, land destroyed…Also, four firefighter died while trying to prevent the damage. Then he directed his critique to the government and authorities.


burnt land painting tom thomson
Burnt Land, Tom Thomson, 1915, National Gallery of Canada


“We are shocked that the governments around the world, including our own, are allowing our beautiful planet, this work of art, to be gutted and burned to fuel the pockets of fossil fuel plutocrats”, he added. The representative of the organization, Laura Sullivan, says that the paint can be washed. Also, that the painting has a glass protection.

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Demands: 50,000 Firefighters and Citizens’ Assembly

 algonquin park
Tom Thomson, F.H. Varley, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Marjorie Lismer and Mrs. Ester Lismer in Algonquin Park, 1914, via AGO


On2Ottawa describes itself as a “non-violent civil disobedience campaign designed to encourage Canadian governments to take urgent and meaningful action on the climate crisis”. The organization demands the establishment of a fire service with 50,000 personnel to fight against fires and to prevent them. The organization also wants to establishes a citizens’ assembly with “legally-binding power to decide how to tackle the climate and ecological crisis in less than 2 years”.


On2Ottawa released a press statement. They expect “Further disruption in the capital for another week-and-a-half”. The National Gallery of Canada also released its own press release related to this event. The painting is in good state but is no longer available for view, until they determine if there is any damage. Also, the are collaborating with authorities.


rapids painting tom thomson
The Rapids, Tom Thomson, 1915, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queens University


“The safety and security of our staff and visitors and of our collection remain our highest priority”, the gallery stated. Since 2022, there have been an ongoing wave of climate protests targeting prominent works at art galleries and museums in Europe, Canada, Australia, and the United States. The protests have resulted in arrests, lawsuits, and even a federal indictment.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.