Thomson painted the oil on canvas during the winter of 1916-1917. He based the painting on a slightly different sketch created while working as a park ranger in Algonquin Park during the summer of 1916.
Described by A.Y. Jackson as one of the three finest paintings ever done in Canada, The West Wind is considered the spirit of Canada manifest in a picture. It is the creation of an image which bears a powerful message of the forces of nature. Despite the title, the painting is a portrait of two twisted Red Pine trees. They provide the observer an easy access to the painting's wind swept distance and help humanize the cold, scudding cloud and caps of forbidding water.
Thomas John Thomson was born near Claremont, Ontario, August 4, 1877. He drowned tragically in Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park in July 1917. Thomson was basically a self-taught artist working initially in crayon and water colour. He later turned to painting in oils based on rapidly made sketches. During his early career he worked with various commercial studios. He spend the last two summers of his life working in Algonquin Park as a park ranger and guide. Thomson is considered to be the spiritual father of the Group of Seven, if not a member.