The Incomparable Paul Kane

Paul Kane (1810-1871), although born in Ireland, grew up in what is now Toronto. He learned to paint by copying the masters’ works while he toured Europe. He was, essentially, self-taught. During the years 1846-48, Kane journeyed west through what is now Canada to Victoria, painting and documenting the lives and lands of the First Nations people he encountered along the way. He kept a journal of his travels and a sketch book, and despite the Irish in him (he sometimes liked to embellish both his tales and his art), he has left Canadians a brilliant, highly readable and profusely illustrated record of a land still being used and lived upon in traditional ways.

This book contains both his published journal, Wanderings of an Artist Among the Indians of North America and his sketchbook. The former is profusely illustrated by the paintings he completed upon his return using his sketches as reference. The photograph above is of a sentimentally favourite painting for me. It was painted perhaps two miles from our shop on neighbouring Tunnel Island, on a site where I spent two years excavating as an archaeologist. It still looks very much like it does in the painting, only without the active Ojibway campsite and birchbark canoes.

Kane’s work remains a valuable reference for anyone studying the history of the Canadian West.

Kane, Paul; edited with a biographical introduction and a catalogue raisonn by J. Russel Harper. Paul Kane’s Frontier. First Trade Edition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971. [10], ix-xviii, [4], 5-350, in dark spruce green cloth covered boards with title, etc., gilt-stamped to spine. DJ edges worn with some chipping and several short tears, price clipped. Pages clean and fresh, all illustrations intact. Binding a wee bit shaken, due mainly to the size and weight of the block. Western Canadiana, Art, Travel Memoir ECB11077 SOLD!

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