II-49357.1 | Masters George and Charles Notman, Montreal, QC, 1878

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Masters George and Charles Notman, Montreal, QC, 1878
Notman & Sandham
1878, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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This photograph portrays two of photographer William Notman's sons, George Richard Woodwark (1868-1921) and Charles Frederick (1870-1955).

The name of George, William Notman's second son, first appeared in studio payroll records in 1884. George, not quite 16 at the time, had just returned from his first visit to the West during which he served as assistant to his brother William McFarlane Notman (1857-1913). In 1887, he represented the company at Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in London and, later that year, embarked on a second journey west during which he served again as his brother's assistant. When he left Montreal in the fall of 1890, George likely went to work in Boston. His name only appeared in that city's directory in 1892 when George was working with his cousin Annie at the Park Street studio. By then, he had taken the place of his brother Charles who had returned to the Montreal studio to join his oldest brother on the death of their father in 1891.

Some time after 1893, George left Boston to open a studio on Madison Avenue in New York. Of this period, little is known about George other than he would return to the Boylston Street studio in Boston in 1898. After moving back to Montreal in 1900, George abandoned photography altogether to become director of the Eclipse Acetylene Gas Company. He died in Montreal in 1921.

Charles, the youngest son of William Notman, was born in Montreal in 1870. He was the only one of three sons to be placed in an apprenticeship outside of Canada. After finishing high school at age 18, Charles was sent to the Park Street studio in Boston in 1888. The following summer, he worked as an assistant to his brother William McFarlane Notman who was then making his third journey west along the Canadian Pacific Railway. Charles resumed his work in Boston before returning to the Montreal studio on the death of his father in late-1891. Named a junior partner by his brother William in 1894, Charles' talent and reputation as a portrait photographer would flourish over the years, solidifying the status of the Montreal Notman studio as a leader in its field.

Between his appointment as partner in 1894 and the sale of the studio in 1935, Charles would become the sole owner of the company (following his brother's death in 1913) and pioneer numerous advances in the field of photography. This period, in and of itself, merits a more detailed study.

As his retirement neared, Charles likely found it hard to run a competitive business, particularly in the midst of an economic crisis. The 1934 death of William Haggerty, Charles' right-hand man, may also have influenced his decision to sell the company and its collection of 400,000 prints and negatives - representing 78 years of photography - to Associated Screen News. After the sale, Charles stayed on as the studio's director and vice-president.