C572_A.06.581.1 | A winter scene
A winter scene
Auguste Trichon (1814 - ? )
1875, 19th century
Ink on newsprint - Photolithography
16.3 x 23.1 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Genre (188) , Print (10661)
Keys to History
The article accompanying this illustration in the Montreal weekly newspaper L'Opinion publique describes a scene that unfolds in a humble dwelling such as might be found in Montreal. In most Canadian cities at that time, nearly half of the population could be considered poor; in other words, it did not have the means needed for adequate housing, food, clothing and heating. The winter was a particularly trying time. This article encourages the newspaper's readership to be generous toward these unfortunate people:
The members of some relief organizations, such as visitors from the Société St-Vincent-de-Paul, would not be at all surprised by a scene like the one depicted in this print. Their work in the poor neighbourhoods of big cities have made such lamentable domestic tragedies all too familiar.
One has to hear relief workers' stories and descriptions to know the full extent of the misery in which some people live today, and to understand the horror of certain situations. (...)
Our print needs no comment. (...) These unfortunate souls wrapped up in rags and tatters, whose haggard expressions betray the hardships and tortures of hunger; (...) this emaciated family head delirious on a rude pallet - all of this is painfully eloquent.
The two society ladies wrapped in comfortable furs who suddenly pop up on the doorstep of this hovel have an effect like that produced by a ray of sunlight in a prison cell.
These ladies, dear readers, are you yourselves, charitable women whose hearts, which have been already moved by the tales of misfortune of many of your neighbours, will bring these disenfranchised souls the bread, clothing, wood and remedies they need throughout these long winter days. (...)
The Canadian Illustrated News and its French-language counterpart, L'Opinion publique, which were more family magazines that journals of opinion, often carried stories of this type.
According to the text accompanying this print, the scene depicted here could have taken place in Montreal. But because the artist was French, the interior may have been based on that of a European household.
The Société Saint-Vincent-de-Paul mentioned in this text was one of the charitable organizations that the Catholic Church established in Montreal in the 19th century. The Protestant community had its own goodwill institutions, which were run mainly by lay people.
This illustration is the work of François-Auguste Trichon, a French woodblock printer famous in the 19th century.