It's Not the Destination, It's the Journey: Art and the Expedition in Nineteenth Century Canada IV

 

Introduction

Frances Anne Hopkins was uniquely adept at balancing components of the dynamic new environment in her compositions. Hopkins' work depicts harmonious landscapes in which her fascination for the resourceful Voyageur lifestyle, and craftsmanship (note: she was particularly interested in the timber construction of freight canoes etc.) is balanced against meticulously studied natural elements. Frances Anne Hopkins was an exceptional female artist in her time - when Victorian constructs of gentility dictated that a woman's primary role was at the side of her husband, relegating art to a passing hobby. Even Isobel Finlayson, a contemporary artist to Hopkins, on her own voyage from Britain to the Red River District has stated: "A Wife's most sacred and hallowed duty is to follow and share the fortunes of a beloved affectionate Husband" (Tippett 19.) And Frances Anne Hopkins did, accompanying her husband Edward, Chief Factor in charge of the Montreal Department of the Hudson's Bay Company. Hopkins accompanied her husband on tours to inspect fur trade posts under his jurisdiction. It was in this way that the artist secured safe travels through Canada's wilderness, gaining access to what must have been incredible sights for the artist, working under the role of tourist and companion. It is worth noting that while Hopkins could not travel of her own volition as Kane did, every artist working in early Canada required some vehicle to launch them. For Hind, it was his older brother Henry Youle Hind (an established geologist and respected lecturer.) For Kane it was the formal sanctioning of Sir George Simpson (the Inland Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company) that got his foot in the door. Once immersed though, the rugged wilderness did not discriminate, doling out equal punishment to adventurers and artists alike.