HewtonWaters- William Berczy

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Introduction II-10908 08758 08761 08738 08774


William Berczy (1744 - 1813) was baptized Johann Albrecht Ulrich Moll on 10 December 1744 in Wallerstein, Germany (Villeneuve 2003). He trained as a youth at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna, but moved to Italy, and ultimately all over Europe, to work as a painter, architect, and writer (Stock 1983). In 1792 he was given the charge to oversee the immigration of a group of around two hundred German settlers to a tract of land in the Genesee Valley of New York State (MacIntosh 2001-2002). Upon their arrival in 1794, however, the group was denied their land claims. The resourceful Berczy thus led them from the Genesee Valley to Queenston, in what would eventually be Canada. Fortunately, John Graves Simcoe (1752 - 1806), lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, was under intense pressure by the British Home Secretary to increase civilian settlement in Canada. Upon their arrival he offered the group 64,000 acres of free land in Markham Township (MacIntosh 2001-2002). This would prove to be a formative event in Canadian history, as it was this group of settlers that turned out to be central in the development of York, today Toronto (Hudson's Bay Company 2008). On the other hand, it would also be a pivotal event in the life of William Berczy: it was in Canada that he would produce his more mature works, many of which became important images of pre-confederation Canada. Inherent in these works are European influences which would have been inescapable to recent immigrants like Berczy in the New World. Thus, for their part, Berczy's paintings allow us see the extent to which early "Canadian art" was influenced by European compositions.