Saturday, August 03, 2013

Travels with Paul Kane . . . in 1846.

While doing research on the artist Paul Kane, I found this lovely 14-minute video, "Paul Kane Goes West." The film highlights Kane's paintings and sketches made over a three-and-a-half trip across Canada to Fort Vancouver and Fort Victoria between 1846-1850.

What intrigues me most is that Kane travelled over 3,000 miles to observe and record Native Americans throughout Canada and in the Pacific Northwest. Many helped him along the way; several tribes invited him to sit in on various ceremonies as his artistic talent had, they believed, magical properties. 

Paul Kane c. 1850 (Wikipedia)
Kane had met the famous American artist George Catlin in Europe and was inspired by Catlin's argument that Native American culture was disappearing. 

Without money, somehow Kane persuaded George Simpson, the head of the Hudson's Bay Company, to sponsor his trip west. Simpson originally had reservations that Kane could handle the hardships of the trip, but commissioned several works from Kane and later helped Kane publish his book in London. 

Interestingly, Kane lost his eyesight and died rather young, at 61, but not before marrying, settling down in Toronto, and fathering four sons. 

While the sharp contrast between the diary Kane kept on his journey and his later published 'official' recounting of his travels has led some to suggest ghost writers rewrote much of his original diary, I was able to find Kane's travel book online here

Paul Kane. The 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: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts (1859). This book reproduces many of Paul Kane's vivid paintings and sketches of peoples and lands now difficult to envision.

Also, Diane Eaton and Sheila Urbanek's Paul Kane's Great Nor-West,Vancouver: UBC Press, 1995, presents and analyzes his paintings, sketches, and writings. What an amazing journey.


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