Artwork by Edward Roper,  A Northwest Coast Indian Village, circa 1887

Edward Roper
A Northwest Coast Indian Village, circa 1887

oil and watercolour on paper laid on board
signed lower right; inscribed “P.C. 381” on a label on the reverse
12.5 x 20.5 ins ( 31.8 x 52.1 cms )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$10,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $33,600.00
Sale date: June 8th 2023

Sotheby's, auction, Toronto, 20‒21 October 1975, lot 138
G. Blair Laing Ltd., Toronto
Kenneth Thomson, Toronto
A.K. Prakash & Associates, Inc., Toronto
Private Collection
“Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver Art Gallery; travelling to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary; Art Gallery of Hamilton, 30 October 2015‒25 September 2016
Marius Barbeau, ‘Tsawati, Knight Inlet’, “Bulletin 119-Vol III”
W.H. Allen, “By Track and Trail: a journey through Canada”, London, 1891, pages 204-206
Blair Laing, “Memoirs of An Art Dealer 2”, Toronto, 1982, no. 36, reproduced page 85
Ian Thom, et al., “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver/London, 2015, reproduced page 26
Edward Roper is the quintessential Victorian imperial artist. Born in England, he emigrated with his family to Canada as a child in 1844, but went to Australia in 1853, then to England in 1857, and returned to Canada with his newlywed wife in 1858. He worked as a printer and amateur artist in Hamilton, Ontario, working for the earlier, Hamilton based version of the Canadian Illustrated News (1862‒1864). In 1865 he went back to England, and then spent three years in Australia from 1870‒1873, before making his home in England for the rest of his life, becoming a full-time artist and writer. However, he maintained his Canadian connections with his family, traveling back to Canada several times over the next two decades, and publishing several illustrated accounts about different parts of the country, including “Muskoka” (1883) and “Anticosti Island” (1889). The most notable work was Roper’s account of his cross-country journey on the CPR in 1887, “By Track and Trail: a journey through Canada”; with numerous original sketches by the author.

By this point, Roper had a thriving career, whose participation in a Burlington Gallery exhibition of Colonial Pictures in 1886 was recorded in the Daily Telegraph, which noted that “To Mr. E. Roper all persons desirous of acquiring real and varied knowledge.... will acknowledge a great and lasting debt... depicted with vigour and accuracy”. The exhibition included works by prominent Australian and New Zealand artists, including William Strutt, Nicholas Chevalier, Charles Edward Henn, and John Gully (1819-1888), but there were no less than 49 works by Roper. The Canadian and American section included no works by Roper, but did include four major paintings by Frances Anne Hopkins, three works by Frederick Verner, and three by Allan Edson, among others. Roper also organized another major and well-received exhibition of colonial pictures in 1889, and lectured widely about colonial life. It may have been because of his wide travels, the success of these exhibitions, and his speeches and presentations that Roper was elected a member of the Royal Geographical Society on December 9, 1889.

Roper’s practice was to sketch from life in pencil or watercolour, and then to complete paintings based on his “plein air” sketches. He wrote about visiting several Northwest Coast Indigenous villages during his weeks in British Columbia in June 1887. The actual site of this image is not identified, but in “By Track and Trail” Roper describes a visit to a village on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, possibly belonging to the Coast Salish or Tsleil-Waututh First Nation. The work fits closely with Roper’s written description of the village and represents a sympathetic and seemingly accurate image of First Nations life.

We extend our thanks to Jim Burant, art historian and curator, for contributing the preceding essay.

Share this item with your friends

Edward Roper
(1857 - 1891)

Artist Edward Roper resided in England but made several trips to Canada and the United States. In 1887, the artist spent several months in British Columbia and exhibited his Western Canadian paintings upon his return to England.