Artwork by Paul Kane,  Lodges Near Fort Vancouver, 1847
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Mayberry Fine Art
212 McDermot Ave
Winnipeg MB R3B 0S3
Ph. 1(866)931-8415

Lot #117

Paul Kane
Lodges Near Fort Vancouver, 1847

watercolour
titled lower centre, catalogue raisonné no. IV-397a
5.5 x 9.25 in ( 14 x 23.5 cm ) ( sheet )

Auction Estimate: $175,000.00$125,000.00 - $175,000.00

Provenance:
Family of the Artist (great-great grandson)
Joyner Fine Art, auction, Toronto, 20-21 May 1987, lot 80
Kenneth R. Thomson, Toronto
G. Blair Laing, Toronto
A.K. Prakash & Associates, Toronto
Masters Gallery, Calgary
Private Collection
Exhibited:
"Sketches of Indians and Indian Chiefs, Landscapes, Dances, Costumes, &c., &c. by Paul Kane", Old City Hall, Toronto, 9-17 November 1848, no. 235 as "Lodges on Prairie, near Fort Vancouver"
Possibly "Catalogue of Sketches and Paintings by Paul Kane", Winnipeg Art Gallery, March–April 1922 as "Near Port [sic] Vancouver"
Literature:
"Paul Kane, Landscape Log 1846–1848", Stark Museum of Art, 11.85.4, Manuscript
George Walton, comp. York Commercial Directory, Street Guide and Register, 1833–4, pr. for Thomas Dalton, York, 1834; quoted by Carole D, Lowrey, “The Society of Artists & Amateurs, 1834: Toronto’s First Art Exhibition and its Artists,” RACAR: revue d’art canadienne / Canadian Art Review, vol. 8, no. 2 (1981), pages 99–118, on pages 101 (“Coach”), 106 (“Society”)
Harriet Peek Clench, "Sketches of Indians and Indian Chiefs, Landscapes, Dances, Costumes, &c., &c. by Paul Kane", Toronto, November 1848, no. 235 (appears incorrectly on page 8 as no. 225 due to a typographical error)
[Paul Kane], "Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America from Canada to Vancouver’s Island and Oregon through the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Territory and Back Again", London, 1859
William Henry Giles Kingston, 'The Life and Adventures of Paul Kane', "Kingston’s Magazine for Boys", vol. 2 (1861), pages 70–80, 130–38, reproduced on page 71
John Russell Harper, "Paul Kane’s Frontier", Toronto, 1971, Appendix 3, page 320, listed as no. 235 as "Lodges on Prairie, near Fort Vancouver"
John Russell Harper Fonds, Library and Archives Canada, MG30 D352, vol. 10, file 16, Correspondence, 1972
Canadian Art, May 20th & 21st, 1987, Joyner Fine Art (auction catalogue), Toronto, 1987
Helen Hersh Schuster, 'Yakima and Neighboring Groups', Deward E[dgar] Walker, Jr, ed. "Plateau". Vol. 12 of "Handbook of North American Indians", Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 1988, pages 327–51, on page 336
Ted Binnema and Gerhard J. Ens, eds., "Hudson’s Bay Company Edmonton House Journals, Correspondence, and Reports 1806–1821", Historical Society of Alberta, Calgary, 2012, pages 42-43
I.S. MacLaren, "Paul Kane’s Travels in Indigenous North America: Writings and Art, Life and Times", McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal and Kingston, 2024, page 4:235, no. IV-397a and page 4:257
Paul Kane was born in Ireland and emigrated with his family to York, Upper Canada, as a young boy. His desire to become a painter prompted Michael Kane (1776–1851), his disappointed father, not to arrange for him to be educated. A consequent autodidact, Paul wrote oddly, often phonetically, while advertising himself as a “Coach, Sign and House-painter, 158 King-street” in the 1833–34 edition of the York Commercial Directory (the town took the name of Toronto the next year, by which time it had grown to 9,000 inhabitants). In the early 1850s, Kane told English novelist William Henry Giles Kingston (1814–1880) that for a time in his youth he had “contented himself with covering deal boards, or the walls of the neighbouring shanties with the productions of his hand.” By the age of twenty-four, Kane exhibited his copies of paintings in the exhibition of the fledgling Society of Artists & Amateurs in 1834.

Kane spent the later 1830s working in Ogdensburg, New York; Cobourg, Upper Canada; in towns along the Mississippi River; and in a studio in Mobile, Alabama. On 19 June 1841, he sailed from New Orleans for Europe, where he undertook studies on his own in Italy and also visited France and England before returning to Mobile in April 1843.

Nearly two years later, he apparently had amassed sufficient funds to undertake a western trip with the aim of painting Indigenous peoples as a prelude to creating his own version of the genre known as an “Indian Gallery,” which contemporaries such as George Catlin (1796–1872) and John Mix Stanley (1814–1872) were undertaking, and that Thomas Lorraine McKenney (1785–1859) was publishing in hand-coloured lithographs in the three volumes of "History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1837–1844)", from portraits painted by Charles Bird King (1785–1862), James Otto Lewis (1799–1858), and Henry Inman (1801–1846). In Summer 1845, Kane’s travels took him to Penetanguishene and Owen Sound, on Georgian Bay, and to both a council of Anishinaabe leaders at Saugeen, Lake Huron, and an annual gift ceremony at Manitowaning, Manitoulin Island. This trip extended under Kane’s own steam to Wisconsin Territory in the Fall, where he sketched Menomini, Potawatomi, and Winnebago people, including Oshkosh. His itinerary took this turn after Kane was persuaded at Sault Ste Marie by Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Trader John Ballenden (1810–1856) that the HBC could expedite much wider travels if the artist returned to Toronto for the winter and gained the permission and support of George Simpson, the company’s inland governor.

With the help of a letter from Ballenden to Simpson, Kane secured these and set out again in May 1846. The next thirty months of transcontinental travel to and from the Pacific Ocean made his fame as an adventurer and provided him with the opportunity to draw more than 500 sketches of Indigenous people and their lifeways. With HBC brigades, he became the only nineteenth-century sketcher of Indigenous peoples to cross Turtle Island.

For nine days in November 1848, within a month of his return to Toronto, Kane exhibited 240 finished sketches. He then set about preparing canvases for annual provincial exhibitions, and securing and fulfilling commissions. The first of these, from Simpson, was for ten sketches in oils on paper. Thereafter, he worked at executing his “Indian Gallery.” With this genre, he could exploit his paramount talent of portraiture on canvas. By also including many works depicting both peopled and empty landscapes, Kane’s gallery also became a full- blown illustrated atlas.

With most of the 240 finished sketches that Kane exhibited 9–17 November 1848 now lodged in the Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas, and a few at the Royal Ontario Museum, it is extraordinary that one of them, "Lodges on Prairie, near Fort Vancouver" (catalogue raisonné no. IV-397a), has become available. Possibly exhibited in Winnipeg in March and April 1922 under the title “Near Port [sic] Vancouver,” it remained in the Kane family until 1987, when Joyner Fine Art of Toronto auctioned it to collector Kenneth Thomson (1923–2006). Numbered 235 in graphite by Kane in the centre of the verso and with the sign still intact of the hole made in all four corners so it could be pinned to the wall in the rooms of the building that stood on the southwest corner of King Street East and Jarvis Street until Toronto’s Great Fire razed it 7 April 1849, only five months later, it was the last of the watercolours on paper in the exhibit (like nos. 1–80, nos. 236–240 were oils on paper).

The setting is Fort Vancouver, on the lower Columbia River (today operated by the US National Park Service as Fort Vancouver National Historic Site across the Columbia from Portland, Oregon). In the "Catalogue of Sketches of Indians, and Indian Chiefs, Landscapes, Dances, Costumes, &c. &c. by Paul Kane", which Harriet Peek Clench (1823–1892) compiled for the 1848 exhibit, and which was printed by Hugh Scobie (1811–1853), editor of the "British Colonist" newspaper and promoter of Kane, the watercolour was for the first time given the title "Lodges on Prairie, near Fort Vancouver". This title is repeated in part in “Lodges near Fort Vancouver,” written by Paul Kane II (1854–1922) in his distinctive hand and black ink along the foot of the sketch, handwriting that his daughter Irene (1887–1982) identified as his for the eminent Canadian art historian Russell John Harper (1914–1983) in a letter dated 25 January 1971.

The longer title situates the work on the Fourth Plain or Mill Plain, the largest grassy pasturage at the HBC’s largest post on the Pacific Slope (before operations began being moved to British territory at Fort Victoria). The two buildings in the right background are doubtless outbuildings for the post’s vast farming operations. As military artist Henry James Warre (1784–1853) and other travellers contemporary with Kane recorded, the plain was also used for horse racing. The sketch faces west; if it did not, it would have had to include a representation of Mt Hood beyond the background hills, farther up the Columbia River.

Kane’s deployment of orthogonal lines is conventional, directing the viewer’s line of sight on the left by the tipi, lodge, and human figures, on the right by dark bars of some low vegetation, deep into the plain. Also conventional is the setting of the horizon line three-fifths up the left and right edges of the paper. The colours used and the wash of the sky and background hills are typical of Kane’s watercolour palette. The sketch possesses extraordinary aspects as well, for example, in the depictions of Indigenous dwellings and people. The mat-covered lodge is typical of the region, but the tipi, apparently hide covered, was less common. (Perhaps it served as the lodgings of some upriver or transmontane visitors, Fort Vancouver being a prodigious emporium for trade in the 1840s.) It is notable, however, that the lower Columbia River Basin’s Klickitat/Klikatat people did make and use tipis, and so did Yakama: “When people started hunting for bison on the Plains, the skin-covered tepee was adopted. ... The Yakima used a three-pole foundation for their tepees.” "Lodges near Fort Vancouver" exemplifies very well the unrivalled ethnohistorical value of many of Kane’s field sketches.

Perhaps as important as the identification of this sketch as one of the 240 that Kane chose to exhibit upon his return to Toronto is the fact that it possesses another ethnographically significant curiosity. In his landscape log, Kane’s “Fifty-fifth Entry” supplied this description of the sketch in his characteristic spelling: “Indans playing ball in the plane in frunt of Fort Vancouver.” If this had remained the sketch’s title once Kane was back in Toronto, more attention would have focused on the fact that the figures dotting the plain are indeed playing a game. In particular, the largest of them, to the right of the mat lodge and nearest to the viewer, has a stick over his left shoulder. As Robert Boyd of Portland State University has observed, Kane’s wording allows for the documentation that what, on the Prairies and Eastern Woodlands is known as bagattaway/tewaaraton/lacrosse, was played as well on the Pacific Slope, doubtless taken there by transmontane travellers.

Because of an error of omission in its catalogue raisonné, Harper’s "Paul Kane’s Frontier" (1971) does not include an entry for this watercolour. It is included as IV-397a in the catalogue raisonné of I.S. MacLaren’s "Paul Kane’s Travels" (2024), volume 4, page 235.

We extend our thanks to I.S. MacLaren, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta, for contributing the preceding essay. While teaching at the University of Alberta in the Canadian Studies Program, the Department of History and Classics, and the Department of English and Film Studies, Professor Emeritus MacLaren wrote, co-wrote, and edited books and articles about poetry, and the writing and art of explorers, cartographers, and travellers. McGill-Queen’s University Press has just issued his four-volume work, "Paul Kane’s Travels in Indigenous North America: Writings and Art, Life and Times".

This lot includes six publications on Paul Kane, a gift from the owner of this watercolour.
For additional images and/or details related to this artwork, please visit the digital catalogue: https://rb.gy/guln5m
Sale Date: May 30th 2024

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Mayberry Fine Art
212 McDermot Ave
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Ph. 1(866)931-8415


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Paul Kane
(1810 - 1871)

Born in Cork County, Ireland, Kane was an Irish-Canadian painter, famous for his paintings of First Nations peoples in the Canadian West and other Native Americans in the Oregon Country. A largely self-educated artist, Kane grew up in Toronto (then known as York) and trained himself by copying European masters on a study trip through Europe.

After studying in Europe he returned to Canada in 1844 and by then had decided to undertake to paint the First Nations peoples, which task he described as follows, “The principal object in my undertaking was to sketch pictures of the principal chiefs, and their original costumes, to illustrate their manners and customs, and to represent the scenery of an almost unknown country.” In 1845 Kane set out for Lake Simcoe with a portfolio, a box of paints, a gun and ammunition. He travelled from Toronto to Sault Ste. Marie and back. In March of 1846 he went to Lachine to see Sir George Simpson and showed him his sketches. He explained to Sir George that he wanted to record the life of the Indian in the interior. Sir George was very interested in Kane’s paintings and commissioned him to paint twelve either for himself or the company. He also gave Kane a letter of introduction to travel by Hudson’s Bay boats and canoes and to stay at the various posts along the way. Having secured the support of the Hudson's Bay Company, he set out on a second, much longer voyage from Toronto across the Rocky Mountains to Fort Vancouver and Fort Victoria in the Columbia District, as the Canadians called the Oregon Country.

On both trips Kane sketched and painted Aboriginal peoples and documented their lives. Kane brought back more than five hundred sketches, enough to keep him supplied with material for painting for the rest of his life. He produced more than one hundred oil paintings from these sketches. His commissions included paintings for Sir George Simpson, the Library of the Legislature of Upper Canada and George William Allan (this collection was later presented to the Royal Ontario Museum).

Kenneth E. Kidd described the sketches as follows, “All… are characterized by a freshness and vitality which immediately attract one; if we can imagine the arduous circumstances under which the artist must have worked at them – in a moving canoe, in the excitement of a buffalo hunt, or in the intense cold, or again, under the suspicious eyes of hostile Indians – we must concede his ability to capture not only delightful bits of scenery but the significance of the action or the view before him as well… When he set off for the North-west coast in 1846 on his longer trip, most of his meagre equipment quickly became exhausted, for he was forced to use scraps of notepaper, some of it even lined with blue before the end of his journey. His watercolours, fortunately, did not run out, and thus the intrepid artist-explorer was able to record a truly great number of scenes along the way.”

Kane's work, particularly his field sketches, are still a valuable resource for ethnologists. The oil paintings he completed in his studio are considered a part of the Canadian heritage, although he often embellished them considerably, departing from the accuracy of his field sketches in favour of more dramatic scenes.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979