Simmins--Image of the West

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Introduction

Image of the West




Historical Factors and Websites discussing Canadian History in the 19th century:

Although the west was open to fur-traders from the middle of the seventeenth century, they tended to stick to established river routes and leave the rest of the country alone.

by mid-19th century art in present-day Ontario and Quebec had developed metropolitan character in keeping with the growing stability of Victorian Canadian cities

? in direct proportion to the settlement and increasing stability of central Canada, the west came to be regarded as the next frontier.

? in 1845, all the land stretching from Lake Superior to the Pacific, and up into the Arctic, was controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company

? the west gradually became part of Canada. Purchase of Rupert's Land from HBC in 1870 results in expansion to Rockies and the Coast. (Present-day Northwest Territories and Nunavit.) Desire to establish border on west coast leads to BC becoming province in 1871

? Britain hands over title to Arctic Islands in 1880; Yukon added in 1898

? Manitoba became a province in 1870, with much smaller boundaries than today; B.C. also became a province in 1870; Alberta and Sask become provinces in 1905; by 1912 northern Ontario and Manitoba were carved out from the former District of Keewatin

? also, should remember that west was settled at different times and by peoples of different ethnic origins. For instance, images of west coast come from all sorts of different ethnic artists ? Spanish, Russian, American, most of whom were in transitory passage. By contrast, images of prairies come typically from artists based in central Canada, who often travelled west accompanying Scientific expeditions, or sometimes on their own initiative ? e.g., Paul Kane

There was no permanent immigration until well into the 19th century. Reasons for this seem to be that the foreignness of west kept many people from coming here. Refer to two books: Rees's New and Naked Land: Making the Prairies Home; a study of the attitudes that European settlers had; and R. Douglas Francis, Images of the West: Changing Perceptions of the Prairies, 1690-1960, which is an anthology of documents.

Refer to Francis's categories:

The Western Wasteland, 1650-1850

fur traders (HBC founded 1670)

travellers thought it was a desert

West to Eden: The Romantic West, 1845-1885

first western artists trying to capture western romatic image, which is bound up with natives (Paul Kane)

Indians, trappers, Métis

The West, the Nation, and the Empire, 1845-1885

realization of strategic importance of west

precise surveys taken and geological potential analyzed (Hind)

still no large-scale immigration,with exception of Winnipeg, but beginning of cities such as Calgary and Edmonton

The Promised Land: The Utopian West, 1880-1920

CPR, artists and tourism (show O'Brien)

realization of strategic importance of west; first large-scale immigration. Discuss Sifton and Laurier.

immigration posters ? show. Impossibly optimistic.

conditions primitive: discuss soddy

refer to documents ? here the concentration on two aspects of the prairie town

show prefabs, discuss this article, and discuss also the Stegner article

this the period when many of today's settlers came to Canada. Call for comments?

other aspects of western settlements: e.g., Doukhoubour prayer house.

Ukranian immigration as well as Hutterite and Mennonite. Mention importance of Canada as a place of religious refuge.

tendency to have disjunction between "official" architecture?i.e., government buildings?and that produced vernacularly

Western Realism, 1880-1940

reality of living in new land

read here from Rees's reactions to the Prairies.

Also from another passage in Rees, p. 87 (in chapter suggestively entitled, "Nostalgia for the Homeland):

Unlike the United States, Canada had no constitutional ideals of happiness and individual liberty to sustain immigrant morale. A Loyalist country that had remained faithful to the Crown was less a land of beginning again than a northern refuge from debilitating forces in other places. Canada could offer political safety and shelter, but not transcendent ideals. People came here not, as de Tocqueville said of immigrants to America, to be "born free," but to escape oppression, to preserve traditions and ways of life threatened at home and, like immigrants the world over, to improve their material lives. They arrived as quiet recipients of a land already won, not as potential conquerors: the Indians had been subdued, the land surveyed and subdivided, and lawlessness brought under control.

Quote from an anonymous Mennonite immigrant:

"With tears I look upon the place/
Where I have chosen to live.
No house, no hearth, no chair, no bed,/
No horse, no cow, no meat, no flour,/
No dish, no spoon, no nothing at all./
How unencumbered I am in this wide world. (cited in Reees, p. 88)

The Mythic West, 1940-1980

creation of an self-image and a literature, e.g., Sinclair Ross's As For Me and My House (1941): typical of genre that tends to examine failure of dream of prairies

but the dream was still powerful. Examples in Canadian literature abound, from Farley Mowat's the Dog Who Wouldn't Be, which chronicles a boy growing up on the prairies (show Kurelek?), to W.O. Mitchell's Who Has Seen the Wind (1947), the story of Brian O'Connall, a boy growing up in a Saskatchewan farm town during the Depression. As Brian grows, he seeks to understand and reconcile the Man-Nature conflict. The degree where prairie meets town is a fulcrum where Brian's most significant experiences occur. His reoccurring experiences of transcendence, first associated with he parairie and the wind, is eventually reconciled with a need for civilization and social responsibility. In the end,. the boy resolves to become a "dirt doctor," a symbolic embodiment of the duality resolved. (This cited from Martin Jones, p. 30)

contemporary fiction tends to look at myth of the west, e.g., Robert Kroetsch's The Moment of the Discovery of America, or Rudy Wiebe

for our purposes, we will concentrate on the 19th century forward. Francis's are interesting as regards cultural developments in general, but we will employ a somewhat simpler series of categories than those employed by Francis.

General Observations about the Painting

Several distinct phases in art of western Canada:

1) all military officers on expedition working in topographic tradition;

2) surveyors and other civilians working in same tradition;

3) introduction of photography, and aesthetics associated with it;

4) CPR art (art to promote region ? romantic, yet safe); key date is 18985, completion of railway;

5) then ? and only gradually ? established artists.

? first painters working in west typically concentrated on two sorts of subjects: ethnographic recording and landscape. Many untrained: accompanied expeditions and drew rough sketches. For this reason many of the most "genuine" works are still unstudied because they are in archives, in tiny sketchbooks (see Painters in a New Land)

? most important date is 1885, which was when the railway across Canada was completed. Prior to this artists worked as individuals; there was no distinct school of western painting.

? completion of railway changed all this. The railway brought tourism and with it companies eager to use paintings to promote the regions in which the railway travelled

? leading artists of the day issued free passes to paint Rockies; the paintings were then used for promotional purposes

? leads to development of entirely different vision of painting. Gone is simple ethnographic and scientific recording; the new mode of vision is grand, ambitious, romantic. Will relegate second phase to a subsequent lecture

Case studies

Peter Rindisbacher (1806-34)

? of Swiss origins; emigrated with family to Selkirk's Red River settlement (1812+); present-day Manitoba

? had had some art training while still in Switzerland ? was taught meticulous rendering style of a miniaturist (cf Berczy)

? Red River settlement ill-fated; disagreements erupted between Selkirk's settlers and Métis. Settlers allied with HBC, Métis with North West Company. Savage fighting followed by merger of companies in 1821. This is when Rindisbacher family came to settlement

? paints events and people in area until he leaves Canada for St. Louis; dies prematurely age 28

? working method: detailed outline sketch worked up into finished composition

? kept originals; executed copies on commissioned basis. Sold these to HBC officials and others. Read excerpts (The Artist was a Young Man, p. 44):

Do not forget if you please my commission about the Drawings. The ones I should like to have in particular are?the Plain Indian on Horseback shooting at an enemy?the Group of Indians where the Scalp is introduced. Captain Bulger's Palaver?the death of the Buffalo and two or three Buffaloes Pieces in which I think the lad excels?as also traveling in winter with an Indian Guide before the sled?Of all these I have seen several different copies, so that I conclude he keeps one copy to take another form as occasion may require.

? interesting point about role of copies.

EXPEDITION ARTISTS

Henry G. Warre (1819-98)

? led mission to Columbia expedition to Oregon territory during 1845-46; the mission became necessary because Americans staking claim to west coast (Polk's slogan: "54 40 or Fight"). HBC petitioned British Government to find out extent of American influence in the area. Warre and a friend were to travel throughout the area posing as young adventurers

? traveled by canoe from Montreal in May of 1845 and eventually ended up out west. Examples of his work: Source of the Columbia, 1848

? by the way, the political wrangling saw the US and Britain decide upon the 49th parallel while Warre was still in the field

? see work as within topographical tradition ? meticulous landscapes correctly rendered

? symptomatic of older tradition: many of the sketches were published in a book in 1848, titled Sketches in North America and the Oregon Territory, after the lithographs of Thomas Miles Richardson Jr. (1813-90)

Other examples: James Alden (1834-1922) (an American)

Paul Kane (1810-1871)

? the greatest of the western Canadian artists; productive and talented. Career raises questions concerning the relationship of artist to patron, and also relationship of sketch to finished work

? although born in Ireland, Kane grew up from an early age in Toronto. So fair perhaps to regard him as among the first Canadian artists ?he claimed to have been born in TO

? Warre was still in the field in 1846 when Kane started on his own trip to the west, which would last nearly two years

? at first worked as a decorator of furniture; set himself as a coach, sign, and house painter. Then had some training from drawing master of UCC; in 1834 moved to Cobourg, and began to work as a portraitist. In 1841, after a period in US (including St. Louis), visited Italy and copied Old Masters: Murillo, Andrea del Sarto, Raphael
?
Canadian comparisons:

? cf to Cornelius Krieghoff, painter of everyday life in Quebec

American comparisons:

? Kane's career makes us aware that we have to keep in mind parallel developments in American painting

? American artists preceded Canadian ones in both subject matters: ethnographic recording and landscape

GEORGE CATLIN

? between 1830-36 he painted among 48 tribes as far west as the foothills.

? concept: noble savage. Romanticization of 19th century, fuelled by urgency: document vanishing race.

? while in London saw an exhibition of Catlin's American Indians; he resolved to return to Canada and paint natives in Canada's northwest, and to surpass Catlin

? after another two years in US, Kane returns to Toronto. This would be nine years after his initial departure. He leaves from Toronto in June 1845 to sketch Indians in their homelands and collect Indian legends. Traveled around Great Lakes. (Indian Encampment on Lake Huron, 1845-6)

? to travel further west, he contacted Sir George Simpson, superintendent of the HBC, who arranged for Kane to accompany the fur-trade canoe fleets to the west. In May 1845 joins traders at Ft William (Thunder Bay) and goes with them to Ft. Garry.

? witnessed last great buffalo hunt in that region; continued on to Norway House, and followed Sask R to Ft. Edmonton by end of September. Crosses mountains on horseback, descends Columbia River to Ft Vancouver in December and sketches Mt. St Helens and coastal tribes around Victoria. (Falls on the Upper Pelouse River, 1847.) Returns to Toronto 1848, with some 700 sketches of western scenery and of Indians from some 80 tribes

? on his return held one-man exhibition in 1848, and painted canvases from sketches, rendered in a contemporary European genre style. Tended to regard sketches as merely raw material.

? completed 100 canvases over a six-year period; sold these to Sir George Allan for some $20,000; these are now in ROM; 11 replicas are in NGC (these were finished late in 1855)

? works widely praised; critics recognized Catlin as precursor, but considered Kane's works more factual, less romantic

? however, such a difference was relative. Analyze difference between Man who Always Rides and a sketch, or Mah-Min, 'The Feather,', c. 1856

? compositions occasionally "improved" upon ? e.g., Assiniboine Hunting Buffalo taken from print of Italian Youths chasing a Bull, in Harper, p. 213

? published account of his travels in 1859; it became a classic. Read from.

?note current concerns in scholarship about his attitudes to native peoplesa point of considerable discussion

William George Richardson Hind (1833-1899)

? b. Nottingham England 1833; dies Sussex NB 1899

? brother of more famous geologist Henry Youle Hind; Henry arrived in Toronto 1846; William followed in 1852. Set up art studio there but returned to England 8 years later where he might have been influenced by PRB, with their emphasis on minute detail

? in 1861 joins brother's expedition to Moise River; produces 100 pencil, oil and wc studies

? following year goes with Overlanders from Ft Garry to Victoria. Produces more than 160 works. Later moved to NB, where he worked for the Intercolonial Railway

Examples: Red River Cart (1870); Bar in Mining Camp (1865)

? works exhibit somewhat perplexing clumsiness and yet also a closeness to detail

Frances Anne Hopkins (1838-1918)

? special category of "expedition" artist: accompanied husband, Chief Factor of Hudson's Bay Company, on many of his trips into Canadian wilderness

? lived in Canada 1858-70, and created works known for accuracy of representation, and for grandeur of conception. Specialized in canoe and water scenes

? where were these shown? In England. In fact ought probably to see her as example of Victorian artist, whose subject matter happened to be Canadian, rather than specifically Canadian

? subject of recent exhibition and now seems that she should occupy a greater place in history of Canadian art

SURVEY ARTISTS

? in 1870, when B.C. became a province, the idea of a transcontinental railway came to the forefront of government thinking. A major survey was conducted by the CPR and Geological Survey of Canada. Among the artists was actually a photographer ?Benjamin Baltzy (1835-83), who had worked for Notman studios in Montreal

? photography becoming an important art form by then. Introduced into Canada in 1850s and by 1860s firms such as Notman had many employees...many of them artists who worked as colorists, etc.

? Baltzy originally from the U.S....Notman considered him to be a particularly talented individual and paid for his wages. Assisted by John Hammond (1843-1939)

? travelled further into the interior than any photographer before him. On his return he sold so many of the photographs that he recovered most of his wages. Examples:

Cascade on the Hammond ]Garnet] River, 1871;
Junction of the North and South Thompson Rivers at Kamloops, 1871

Humphrey Lloyd Hime (1839-1903)

? photographers during this period also documented prairies

? another photographer who accompanied an expedition ? in this case, Henry Youle Hind's expedition into Assiniboine and Saskatchewan

Examples: View of Red River from SWt. Andrew's Church, 1858
The Prairie Looking West, 1858, The Prairie on the banks of the Red River, looking South, 1858

? first attempts to capture the vast emptiness of the Prairie ?although done with romanticism

? The Corps of Royal Engineers also photograph a number of locales during 1873-74

? by this time, painting distinctly in background. But it was soon to strike back, as it were, with a new and vibrant school of art that arose following the completion of the CPR in 1885