This article deals with the sources for the iconography of a room painted sometime in the eighteen-forties, with a series of extraordinary scenes. It is known as the Croscup Room after the family in whose house the room was originally located. First discovered by Cora Greenaway in 1963, the room was acquired in 1976 by the National Gallery of Canada and permanently installed there in 1981. The Croscup Room can be classified as folk art, if one accepts the definition drawn up by Jean Lipman and Alice Winchester:
In simplest terms, American folk art consists of paintings, sculpture and decorations of various kinds, characterized by an artistic innocence that distinguishes them from so called fine art or the formal decorative arts. This is hardly a definition: it is necessarily an impression, even a subjective designation.
Le village de Neuville est situé sur la rive nord du Saint-Laurent, à une trentaine de kilomètres en amont de Québec. Encore souvent désigné sous l'appellation parallèle de Pointe-aux-Trembles, ce village possède une église qui est réputée pour les trésors artistiques qu'elle recèle1. On y trouve entre autres une vingtaine de tableaux peints par Antoine Plamondon (1804–1895) dans la dernière tranche de sa longue carrière. En sculpture, l'élément le plus remarquable est sans contredit le majestueux baldaquin qui se dresse dans le chœur, au-dessus du maître-autel.
The Ancient Baldachin of the Chapel of the First Episcopal Palace of Quebec, at Neuville
The stately baldachin which stands in the chancel of the church at Neuville – a village located about 30 km above Quebec City – has long intrigued Quebec art historians. In the absence of precise documentary information, a number of theories have been advanced: some attribute the work to Gilles Bolvin (about 1766), others to François Baillairgé (1802). A document found recently in the archives of Quebec's Hôpital-Général has enabled us to establish that the baldachin dates back rather to the 1690's and that it was originally commissioned by Monseigneur de Saint-Vallier to beautify the chapel of his bishop's palace. Four years after leaving this palace to take up residence at the Hôpital-Général, Saint-Vallier had to agree to surrender his baldachin to the parishioners of Pointe-aux-Trembles (Neuville) in exchange for a substantial quantity of wheat which he offered to the poor of Quebec City, stricken at that time with a severe food shortage.
The career of Thomas Seaton Scott can be divided into two quite distinct facets: Scott the designer and Scott the administrator.1 As a designer, Scott was a competent but far from outstanding architect who appeared most comfortable working in a Gothic idiom. As an administrator, Scott made his most significant contribution when, as Canada's first Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works from 1871 to 1881, he supervised the federal government's massive post-Confederation building programme. Under his direction some of Canada's finest examples of the Second Empire style were erected and these buildings provided the most influential vehicle for the dissemination of this style across the country. The works associated with Scott as Chief Architect, however, were more a product of a conscious government policy to create a "federal" style than a reflection of Scott's own tastes or talents. Throughout his career Scott's own designs maintained quite different stylistic directions. This apparent dichotomy between his private practice and his career as a public architect resulted from the nature of his role as Chief Architect.
Sources and Documents
The following bibliography is a listing of theses recently completed and in progress. It is based on Canadiana, responses from Université de Montréal, Carleton University, and Concordia University, and graduate student responses. Graduate student submissions were accompanied by departmental approval of topics.
La présente liste bibliographique regroupe les thèses complétées récemment ainsi que celles qui sont en cours d'exécution. Elle est basée sur Canadiana, sur les réponses provenant des Universités de Montréal, Carleton, et Concordia et sur les informations fournies par les étudiants eux-mêmes.
Art was not a theme that absorbed the editors of Canadian periodicals during the nineteenth century. The general view was that the conditions for a flowering of the arts had yet to be achieved, and the editors tended to share this opinion, with regret. "The taste of our colonial fellow-subjects is almost at the zero point" lamented the editor of the Anglo-American Magazine in 1854, although he went on to suggest that imported art magazines might help to change this. And indeed artistic activity developed a momentum throughout the last half of the century with the establishment of the first public art gallery in 1860 in Montréal, the introduction of art schools into the educational system, and the coming together of artists into lasting associations, beginning with the Royal Canadian Academy and the Ontario Society of Artists in 1881.
In her controversial book, American Painting in the Nineteenth Century, Barbara Novak suggested that American painting is, in the main, conceptual in nature and objective in theme. This means, in essence, that American painters, having isolated a concept or idea for a painting, then based that work very firmly on concrete facts. The principal exceptions in this broad trend she felt were those romantic painters, including Whistler and Vedder, who were very strongly influenced by European styles and concerns. Novak concluded that the factors which provoked an identifiably indigenous American art, as opposed to an imported European one, persisted from the early limner portraits, through to the pop art of the 1960's and the photo realism of today. In Canada a concentration on facts seems to be equally persistent. However, north of the 49th parallel, facts were often approached intellectually, rigidly and rigorously, in a manner that denied room for many emotional flights of fancy. When a more romantic Canadian creator does emerge, a European influence is also paramount, giving rise to more intuitive and emotional creations. F.H. Varley is one of those unusual romantic Canadian painters, and as such, has often been misunderstood or neglected.