Paul Kane's Great Nor-West
In this beautifully designed and richly illustrated book, Diane Eaton and Sheila Urbanek re-create Paul Kane’s heroic journey across Canada and bring to life the people, places, and events he experienced.
Determined to document the lives and customs of the Indians of the Northwest, Paul Kane set out in 1845 to cross the continent “with no companions but my portfolio and a box of paints, my gun and a stock of ammunition.”
Travelling via the Hudson’s Bay Company fur brigade routes, he made his way from the Great Lakes to the Pacific coast and back again. When he returned to Toronto in the fall of 1848, he brought back some 500 field sketches as well as a remarkable collection of Indian “curiosities,” which he used as raw material for one hundred oil paintings depicting scenes of Indian life.
While the carefully executed oil paintings are deliberately romanticized images of the west, the original field sketches convey Kane’s immediate impressions and offer tantalizing glimpses of what he describes as the “wild scenes amongst which I strayed almost alone.” A fascinating complement to the sketches is contained in a small diary Kane kept while on his journey – brief and plainspoken, these entries were jotted down in his own idiosyncratic spelling and punctuation.
Illustrated with a wide selection of the field sketches as well as his better-known oil paintings, this book reintroduces this remarkable artist to a modern audience.
The book’s fascinating text is wonderfully complemented by expert reproductions of many of Kane’s field sketches and of the oil paintings. It helps us to understand a world now lost to us. It helps to preserve cultures and peoples swallowed up in the western migrations in both the United States and Canada. More than most art books, Paul Kane’s Great Nor-West takes us into the soul of its subject.
A fine job of drawing together all the elements necessary to appreciate Kane's work, and of putting it in a historical context. It is fascinating to read of the trial Kane went through to get a particular sketch and then to turn the page and see the actual picture ... [This book] will appeal not only to those with an interest in art or Canadian history, but to anyone who enjoys a good adventure story.
All in all, this handsome and interesting volume does well by Paul Kane, in both pictures and text.
1 Forward with the Lachine Brigade
2 The Metis Buffalo Hunt
3 Across the Prairies to Fort Edmonton
4 A Winter Crossing of the Rockies
5 Adventuring in the Oregon Country
6 Northwest to Fort Victoria
7 Up the Columbia
8 Over the Rockies and Homeward Bound
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