I-30057.1 | Adolphe Vogt, John Fraser and Henry Sandham, Notman staff, Montreal, QC, 1868

Adolphe Vogt, John Fraser and Henry Sandham, Notman staff, Montreal, QC, 1868
William Notman (1826-1891)
1868, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
13.7 x 10 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Three Notman photography studio employees can be seen in this picture: Adolphe Vogt, John Fraser and Henry Sandham.

John A. Fraser was the first art department head hired by William Notman. At the age of 22, he was already an accomplished watercolour painter. Notman, dissatisfied with the work done on contract by William Raphael, was looking for a better artist. When he discovered John Fraser's immense talent in 1860, he immediately offered him a full-time position. Born in England in 1838, Fraser studied at the Royal Academy. He arrived in Canada in 1858 with his new wife, his parents and family. The Frasers settled in the town of Stanstead, in Quebec's Eastern Townships. This may have been where Fraser got to know Notman, when the Notmans were spending their vacation on Lake Memphremagog.

John Fraser was to become William Notman's partner for over 20 years. He spent eight years at the Montreal studio, where, as artistic director, he earned more than any other employee, at $61.50 every two weeks. For over 12 years, he served as managing partner of the Notman and Fraser studio in Toronto. When he broke off his partnership with Notman, around 1880, it was to pursue a career as a landscape artist. He lived in the United States for a number of years until 1886, when Canadian Pacific Railway general manager William Van Horne asked him to paint scenes out West in the Rockies and the Selkirks, along the railway's newly completed track.

Fraser's contribution to the Notman studio's production was substantial. Not only was he recognized as one of the most talented watercolourists in Canada, but he also left his artistic mark on photographic colouring, developing a unique style that preserved the quality of the original while giving the print a rich, lifelike colour. Fraser's coloured portraits were very successful with Notman's well-off clientele.

John Fraser enjoyed the respect of the more junior employees in the art department, to whom he was both teacher and mentor.

Henry Sandham was one of the best pupils of John Fraser, the first artistic director hired by Notman, whose influence is abundantly clear in his early work. Sandham was hired by the Notman studio in Montreal at the age of 18, around the time when Fraser joined the firm. Sandham worked at the studio for 20 years, becoming head of the art department when Fraser left for Toronto in 1868. In 1877, when he was thinking seriously about leaving the studio to devote himself to painting, an offer of partnership with Notman convinced him to stay. This arrangement lasted only until about 1882, however, when Sandham left for Boston, where he had a career as a prolific book illustrator. Sandham produced a huge amount of work, the quality and variety of which showed that he had profited from Fraser's lessons and gave an indication of his significance to the studio. Two such examples are the Skating Carnival from 1870 and the composite photograph of the Montreal Snowshoe Club from 1877. The latter picture, which shows over 300 members of the Montreal Snowshoe Club on the slopes of Mount Royal, won a silver medal and much critical praise at the World's Fair held in Paris in 1878.
We do not have any precise information about Adolphe Vogt. He does not seem to have been an employee of the Notman studio in Montreal. His name does not appear in the studio's payroll book, which is now in the Museum archives and lists the name, starting and departure dates, and wages of every employee.