TORONTO.- The Royal Ontario Museum
presents its newest rotation, an exhibit highlighting the art of Paul Kane, one of Canadas most influential artists. The exhibit is displayed in the Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples from August 24, 2013 to March 16, 2014. The rotation is inspired by the symbiotic relationship between art history and archaeology.
The display brings together 32 artifacts on loan from Quetico Provincial Park and Archaeological Services Inc. along with Kanes painting French River Rapids. Additionally, the oil-on-canvas painting Fishing by Torch Light is shown in concert with Kanes oil-on-paper field sketch of the same name. Comprising two sections, this exhibit focuses on two of Kanes paintings.
French River Rapids
The location of one of Kanes most iconic paintings, French River Rapids, was found nearly 830 kilometres from where it was originally thought to be located. As well, the original site that Kane paintedrepresenting the eastern landing of the French Portagehad been abandoned in the 1870s due to the building of the Dawson Road between Fort William on Lake Superior and the Red River Settlement. Recognizing the location as being undisturbed since the end of the 19th century, in 2008-2009, Kenneth Lister, ROM Assistant Curator of World Cultures and staff from Archaeological Services Inc. excavated the site in partnership with Quetico Provincial Park, a dig which yielded 32 artifacts linked to Kanes depiction. This discovery was made possible by comparing the oil painting with Kanes original oil-on-paper field sketch and relating the images to Kanes field journal, published book (Wanderings of an Artist), and 19th century maps.
With the discovery of the portage landing, it became apparent that the landing represented an undisturbed archaeological site presenting an ideal opportunity to excavate and substantiate Kanes images, says Kenneth Lister, ROM. The direct relationship between the French River Rapids site and Kanes images exemplifies the marriage between art history and archaeology.
Fishing by Torchlight
The famous painting by Kane, Fishing by Torch Light depicts Native peoples using a fishing-withlight technique. The light seen in this painting is referred to as a jacklight and one like it has recently been added to the ROMs ethnographic collection. The ROM has also recently acquired Kanes oil-onpaper field sketch for this painting. The jacklight and the field sketch that inspired the oil painting will both be featured in the exhibition.
As part of the display for this exhibition, Kanes exhibit also includes images of the excavation site, site maps and Kanes book Wanderings of an Artist (Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1859). Ken Listers award-winning publication Paul Kane/The Artist/:Wilderness to Studio (The Royal Ontario Museum Press, 2010) is also available in the ROM Museum Store.