Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d'histoire de l'art canadien


Vol. XXIV (2003)


L'art canadien commence-t-il avec Krieghoff ?

translated summary:
Did Canadian Art Begin With Krieghoff?

Did Canadian art begin with Cornelius Krieghoff? This article addresses the question in light of two opposing views. In the first few paragraphs of the forward to his 1960 book, La peinture traditionnelle au Canada français, Gérard Morisset attacked those (unnamed) art critics who proposed that Krieghoff was the originator of Canadian art. He severely condemned their dismissal of art prior to 1860. Instead he states that there was a much earlier start to the history of Canadian art, beginning with those artists who had responded to the religious or secular aesthetic needs of Quebec's original francophone population. Certainly Morisset believed that Krieghoff could not be considered the first Canadian painter because his work was so derivative of Dutch models.

Canada in Paris
Krieghoff at the Universal Exhibition 1867

Surely one of the most significant contributions of Dennis Reid's Krieghoff: Images of Canada — both exhibition and catalogue — was his discussion of Krieghoff's ensemble of paintings of the timber trade with the publication of the seldom-reproduced nineteenth-century photograph of the work. Long conjectured to have been installed in the Legislative Assembly in Quebec City and lost in the fire in 1883, Krieghoff: Images of Canada revealed that the paintings had in fact been displayed at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1867 (UEP). At the Art Gallery of Ontario, the originating institution of the Krieghoff retrospective, the photograph of the ensemble was enlarged to the scale of the original object, with the actual central painting Timber Depot, Quebec (today known as Sillery Cove, Quebec) superimposed on its photograph. The painting introduced the "Europe 1864–1870" section, suggesting the role it played in promoting Canada on the international stage; and its placement with other paintings produced during his years abroad established its position within Krieghoff s career. In Reid's catalogue, Timber Depot, Quebec was assessed as "the great painting" of this period.

Cornelius Krieghoff and the Shakspeare Club

During the summer of 2000 a previously undocumented painting by Cornelius Krieghoff (1815–1872) was brought to Montreal's McCord Museum of Canadian History for examination. The painting depicts an interior scene with a number of men seated around a table smoking and drinking. Certain artistic license and a conscious attempt at caricature have created a group portrait with great vitality. The painting is signed and dated on the rim of the top hat in the bottom left corner "C. Krieghoff / 47" and it is also signed across the back of the canvas. The work was in a remarkably good condition and the only major conservation requirement was a surface cleaning that restored the painting to its pristine original state.

Run Krieghoff Cours

translated summary:
Cours Krieghoff Run

Up until now, studies on the art of Cornelius Krieghoff have been concerned with establishing a biographical framework and creating a significant catalogue of this neo-Canadian painter's work. The artist's constant moving and travelling about and the fact that he created replicas of his paintings, necessitated this foundation work to chronicle an account of his life and to establish a more definitive corpus of work. This brief paper is an interpretation of Krieghoff's painting, taking into account two recurring factors – the artist's creating numerous versions of the same composition and his travelling – and contrasting them with the theme of movement and a race.

Krieghoff à Québec
L'invention d'un nouvel espace

translated summary:
Krieghoff In Quebec City
The Invention of a New Space

When Krieghoff moved from Montreal to Quebec City in 1852–53, he took great care to demonstrate that he was deeply committed to working out-of-doors. He depicted himself on the shore of Lake St. Charles, in front of the picturesque motif of an abandoned settler's cabin deep in the wilderness, or in a dangerous location above St. Anne's Falls. His prominently-placed drawing portfolio announces the artist's encounter with nature. Thus, the painted landscape becomes nature itself as it integrates the autobiographical experience. Empathy is the key word that undeniably describes Krieghoff's art during his ten years in Quebec.

Some Discoveries Following Upon the Publication and Exhibition of Krieghoff: Images of Canada Relating to the Formative Significance of the Artist's Montreal Period

One of the ambiguous delights following the presentation of a body of intense research is that new material inevitably comes to light. People whose interest had been piqued by the publication of Krieghoff: Images of Canada in November 1999 or by the exhibition it accompanied across Canada over the next two years, brought a provocative bit of early-twentieth-century Quebec City gossip and four noteworthy paintings to my attention. The group portrait The Shakspeare Club discussed elsewhere in this volume by my colleague at the McCord Museum, Conrad Graham, also surfaced in response to the exhibition. This new information expands our understanding of the ten years Krieghoff spent in Montreal before moving to Quebec. It also suggests that much of what has been recorded as the artist's "flowering" in the "old capital," both in terms of a key personal relationship and his development as a painter, had been fundamentally established in Montreal.