Stroh - Canadian Landscape Painting

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Picturesque Landscape Painting in Canada
Stephanie Stroh 307619
ARHI 301 Simmins

From around 1750 onwards watercolour painting became increasingly more popular in England. Artists such as Paul Sandby and Alexander Cozens became very prominent figures and began to become well known for their picturesque landscapes. Picturesque landscapes were one of the most popular subjects during this period. Alexander Cozens' watercolour entitled The Lake is a prime example of the early picturesque watercolour landscapes. Most of Cozen works were done with monochromatic colours as opposed to Paul Sandby who did his paintings with a wide range of beautiful colours.

Paul Sandby was very prominent in this movement as his help in developing the royal military academy meant that many of the people trained there became extremely well versed in the use of watercolour technique and in the development of the picturesque. "Paul Sandby was a cofounder of the Royal Military Academy in 1769" (Peet, p.1) He was one of the leading artists working with picturesque landscapes. Sandby was often called the "Father of English Watercolour". (National Gallery: http://cybermuse. He was known as this because of his heavy influence on numerous artists, English and otherwise. Some of his works include Dumbarton Castle, Scene of the Encampments in Hyde Park During the Gordon Riots, The Cemetery Gate of St Augustine's Monastery Canterbury, Rochester, Kent and Windsor Park. All of these works as well as countless other works are seen as "on-the-spot topographical views". (National Gallery: search/artwork_e.jsp?mkey=14568) Sandby's Scene of the Encampments in Hyde Park During the Gordon Riots is an excellent example of his changing everyday scenes into the picturesque. Although this scene is of military encampments it could just as well be just any day in a quaint little village, the only truth of the painting lies in the actual topography, not the mood. The Tate Gallery describes The Cemetery Gate of St Augustine's Monastery Canterbury as "a medieval gateway with the care associated with topographical draughtsmanship (the accurate recording of particular places) but here it forms the backdrop for a humorous and incident-filled scene of daily life." (Tate Gallery: This quote perfectly describes the use of his picturesque technique. He seems to lighten the mood of every place and make it seem ideal.

Although picturesque watercolours started in England, it was definitely not limited to England. "Topographical recording was not confined to England. The very portable nature of the materials used in watercolour painting made it an ideal medium for those travelling abroad." (Peet, p.1) Sandby was trained as a military draughtsman and his teaching at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich made it possible for numerous military men to travel to numerous places and record the topography. The Royal Military Academy was an institute which trained soldiers much "in the same way as at a public school or university" ( As part of their training numerous students studied art with Sandby, which meant they were extremely influenced by the notion of the picturesque. Many of the military people were sent to explore and record places such as Canada.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s there were numerous watercolour paintings being created at this time. Part of the job of the military explorers who came to Canada was to paint topographical images of Canada. The images were more or less to show what Canada was like. People in England wanted to know what life was like in Canada, including what the landscape and the buildings looked like. The military officers were to keep journals and record much of what they saw in Canada. Although they were meant to give accurate depictions of Canadian life due to the fact that many of them had studied with Sandby or had just been generally influenced by the picturesque style much of the artwork was shown as quaint and ideal, not necessarily realistic. Because the artists had specific a specific reason to be drawing and painting their landscapes are simple and precise documents of an idealized Canada. There is no real outside influence, political or otherwise, in their pictures. Two of the most prominent Canadian landscape artists are Thomas Davies and James Pattison Cockburn. Both of these men were heavily influenced by the picturesque style.

Thomas Davies studied at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich much like most Canadian artists at this time. Davies did not study under Sandby but was obviously greatly influenced by his picturesque style. Davies was a "lieutenant-general, and he received several postings to North America." (Tovell, http://www.thecanadianencyclo Most of Davies works come from his tours of "Halifax, Fort Frederick, Montréal and Niagara Falls." (Tovell, While most of Davies well known work is of picturesque landscape he also did numerous watercolour studies of plants in Canada. Because Thomas Davies was documenting Canada most his watercolours have script at the bottom which states where the painting took place and the date. In his work A View near Point Levy opposite Quebec with an Indian Encampment, Taken in 1788 a scene depicting an Indian Encampment is extremely idealized. Davies goes as far as to even make the natives appear white and European looking. The only way to really tell they are native is the traditional clothing they are wearing. It seems that Davies had to make the decision that for the landscape to be ideal and picturesque he needs to make the images as familiar to English people as possible. The natives might have seemed to shocking for his work to be perfect and ideal. Thomas Davies spent a lot of his time in Quebec and therefore most of his well known works are scenes of Quebec and life in Quebec. Some more examples of his watercolours are A View of the Bridge on the River La Puce near Quebec in Canada, Taken in 1788, A View of the Salmon Pool and Subterraneous River at Jacques-Cartier near Quebec, View on the River La Puce near Quebec in Canada and Montreal. Each of these beautiful watercolours show topographically accurate landscapes. In A View near Point Levy opposite Quebec with an Indian Encampment, Taken in 1788, A View of the Bridge on the River La Puce near Quebec in Canada, Taken in 1788 and A View of the Salmon Pool and Subterraneous River at Jacques-Cartier near Quebec all show images of people, where as Montreal and View on the River La Puce near Quebec in Canada only show landscapes. It is likely that the landscapes without the people are much more accurate as Davies was trained to accurately but pleasantly paint the landscapes of Canada. The paintings with the people on the other hand are not as accurate. While the landscape is still accurate the people are very posed and all seem quaint and happy, which is where the picturesque ideals come in to play. These images are made to make Canada seem perfect and idea, the same way England was being portrayed in watercolours as well.

Another prominent Canadian picturesque painter is James Pattison Cockburn. Unlike Thomas Davies almost all of Cockburn's paintings have people in them. Adding people makes the scene more picturesque since many of his landscapes without the human presence might seem frightening and not quaint, such as Niagara from Goat Island. Niagara from Goat Island is an image of the Niagara Falls, with the landscape alone it seems harsh and frightening but by adding the people who are just standing and watching the falls seem slightly less menacing. One of the largest differences between Davies and Cockburn is that while Cockburn would still be considered influenced by the picturesque his work is much more realistic then Davies'. Like Davies Cockburn also studied at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich. But he studied under Paul Sandby himself. (Tovell, Params=A1ARTA0001731) "As an officer in the Royal Artillery, he served twice in Québec," (Tovell, Params=A1ARTA0001731) and therefore almost all of his paintings are located in and around Quebec. Because of his training, much like Davies, he documented most of his paintings with script at the bottom of each stating the location and the date. The goal of Cockburn was to show the daily life of the people in Canada to the people in England. While he was a topographical painter it was very important for him to show the human side as well. Not all of Cockburn's work is watercolours, he had numerous works of his turned into engravings once back in England. Most of his engravings are hand coloured which gives the same feeling of brightness that a watercolour would. The ice pont formed between Quebec and Pointe Levi and The Lower City of Quebec, from the parapet of the Upper City are both examples of Cockburn's documentation of the life in Quebec. They both have a number of people in them, each doing something different and they are both extremely picturesque. It looks like the ideal life a person would want to live. Cocburn also does works where the people are away from the city and looking at an idealized nature, some examples of these are Niagara from Goat Island, The Falls of Montmorency, (Quebec in the distance)and Mi'kmaq encampment at Point Levis, Quebec.