Self-portraits by women artists in Library and Archives Canada’s collection

Until the beginning of the last century, official self-portraits by women artists were rare, compared to those created by men. This was, in large part, because few women worked and were recognized as professional artists during the early periods. But it is also because many self-representations created by women were in non-traditional formats—hidden within amateur sketchbooks, or private diaries… even stitched or sewn.

A few of Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) most interesting sketched and painted examples are currently on display as part of The Artist Herself: Self-Portraits by Canadian Historical Women Artists, a new exhibition co-curated by Alicia Boutilier of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and Tobi Bruce of the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

The exhibition deliberately expands the traditional definition of ‘self-portrait’; most of the works it showcases would not have been considered self-portraits at the time they were created.

It includes this page from the private sketchbook of Katherine Jane (Janie) Ellice (1813–1864), an accomplished amateur artist and wife of an official with the North West (fur trading) Company. Ellice used the reflection from a mirror on the wall of her ship’s cabin to capture a quick, and very private, image of herself aboard ship.

Watercolour sketch shows the artist and her sister, dressed in nightwear, reclining in a bunk of their ship’s cabin.

Mrs. Ellice and Miss Balfour reflected in the looking glass of their cabin on board the H.M.S. Hastings (MIKAN 2836908)

It also includes Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall, by Frances Anne Hopkins (1838–1919), another ‘fur-trade wife’—but one who would develop something of a professional artist career. Hopkins’ enormous voyageur-themed canvases often include representations of herself that seem almost incidental. It’s believed that she appears, in this painting, as a passenger in the canoe:

Painting shows a group of fur trade workers steering a Hudson’s Bay Company canoe past a small waterfall; the artist and her husband may be passengers seated in the middle of the canoe.

Canoe manned by voyageurs passing a waterfall (MIKAN 2894475)

These are only a few examples, from LAC’s collection, of historical self-portraits made by women. It’s worth noting that the collection also includes many others, both historical—and modern.

The Artist in her Museum was created by contemporary Métis artist Rosalie Favell in 2005.

Colour digital print shows the artist, full-length, and flanked by a mammoth, a beaver, and an artist’s palette. She draws aside a red curtain to reveal a gallery of mounted black-and-white photographs.

The Artist in her Museum, 2005. © Rosalie Favell (MIKAN 3930728)

Favell used digital technology to manipulate an iconic American self-portrait from the 19th century. By putting her own image in place of the original sitter, Favell appropriated a classic work, assigning new meanings within an older convention.

Modern self-portraits, like Favell’s, compare intriguingly with the historical self-representations showcased in The Artist Herself. Today’s more relaxed and expanded definitions of portraiture allow contemporary artists to successfully play within the genre. They also allows us to look back, with fresh eyes, on the self-representations created by women in the past.

Visit the exhibition in Kingston between May 2 and August 9, 2015. Stay tuned for further dates as the exhibition tours nationally, before closing in Hamilton during the summer of 2016.

100th anniversary of the composition of the iconic poem “In Flanders Fields”

John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” is one of the best-known literary works to emerge from the First World War. The poem’s most lasting legacy is its popularization of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those killed in war.

McCrae is thought to have written the poem during the second week of the Second Battle of Ypres while he was stationed at what later became the Essex Farm Advanced Dressing Station, just north of the town of Ypres. McCrae, a Major and military doctor, was second-in-command of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery. The exact circumstances in which the poem was written, however, remain the stuff of legend. The most cited stories of the poem’s origin centre on McCrae’s grief over the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, an officer of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery who was killed by a direct hit from a German shell on the morning of May 2. One account says that McCrae was so distraught after his friend’s funeral (for which McCrae, himself, said the committal service in the absence of a chaplain) that he composed the poem in just 20 minutes as a means of calming himself down. Another story has it that McCrae was seen writing his poem the next day, May 3, sitting on the rear step of an ambulance while looking at Helmer’s grave and the poppies that had sprung up near the dressing station. His commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Morrison, tells a third story: that McCrae drafted his poem while passing time between the arrivals of wounded soldiers. Adding to the mystery is the fact that the Imperial War Museum in England has a tracing of an original holograph of the poem, written by McCrae for Captain Tyndale-Lea, which claims that McCrae wrote the poem on April 29, 1915, three days before Lieutenant Helmer’s death.

The handwritten poem on yellowed paper in very faded ink.

A copy of “In Flanders Fields” written in John McCrae’s hand. Morrison was a friend and the commanding officer of the poet as well as a physician, December 8, 1915 (MIKAN 179238)

How the poem was submitted for publication is also a matter of speculation. By one account, McCrae threw the poem away but it was recovered by another soldier and sent to a London newspaper. Possibly McCrae himself submitted it, as he made a number of handwritten copies to give to friends shortly after drafting it. The poem was printed by Punch magazine on December 8, 1915. Within months it became the most popular poem of the war.

While no institution is known to have John McCrae’s original first draft of the poem, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has two manuscript versions of it, both written and signed by McCrae. One is dated December 8, 1915 and is part of a collection donated to LAC by Major-General Sir Edward W.B. Morrison, who was McCrae’s friend and fellow officer. The other is typed on paper and is part of a collection of documents donated by James Edward Hervey McDonald, an original member of the Group of Seven painters. LAC also holds an extensive and richly detailed collection of John McCrae’s letters and diaries, spanning much of his life, from childhood to shortly before his death from pneumonia in January 1918.

Black-and-white photograph showing a man in military uniform sitting down on steps with a dog at his side.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae and his dog Bonneau, circa 1914 (MIKAN 3192003)

Additional Resources

Wampum belts

“Wampum belts” and “wampum strings”… what do these expressions refer to in the colonial archives of the Library and Archives Canada collection?

Wampum—a word originating among the Algonquian peoples in the southern parts of New England—refers to tubular white and purple beads made from certain seashells found only on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It is an abbreviation of wampumpeague (or wampumpeake), meaning “a string of white shell beads.” In the early 17th century, wampum became an important trade item in the growing fur trade in the northeast of the continent, in addition to serving as currency in the Dutch and English colonies until the 1660s.

Black and white drawing showing two types of wampum: belts and strings.

Drawing published in 1722 showing the difference between wampum strings and wampum belts (MIKAN 2953327)

The Iroquoian peoples from inland areas made special use of wampum in their formal diplomatic meetings with foreign or neighbouring groups. The shell beads were woven into strings and belts of varying sizes, which could contain anywhere from a few hundred to over ten thousand beads.

Oil painting on canvas showing a man standing in a forest with a wolf at his feet. He is dressed in black, wearing a red cape, and holding a wampum belt in his hand.

Portrait of Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row (baptized Hendrick), one of the “Four Indian Kings” who met the Queen of England in 1710 with a wampum belt in hand.

Playing a central role in international meetings and in maintaining good relationships, wampum belts were offered at official gatherings to record the words spoken, to render them official and legitimate. From the early 17th century to about the early 19th century, use of this diplomatic system spread to a large part of the American Northeast, from the vast Great Lakes region to the Maritimes, although with significant variations.

Black-and-white photograph showing several different kinds of wampum belts and strings.

Wampum belts and strings preserved by the Six Nations in the 1870s (MIKAN 3367331)

Since they were used to record spoken words, some wampum belts were kept for many years to ensure that the messages on them were maintained and preserved over time. That is why observers in the 17th and 18th centuries often compared wampum belts to archives or other official written documents (deeds, registers, annals, contracts, etc.).

Black and white photo showing six men looking at wampum belts. Five individuals are seated and the sixth seems to be explaining a wampum belt.

Six Nations Iroquois chiefs explaining the wampum belts they were preserving in 1871 (MIKAN 363053)

Wampum belts were sometimes kept over a long period so that the terms of agreements reached would not be lost. As a support for oral tradition, wampum belts bearing the words spoken at a special event therefore had to be accompanied by a speech to be meaningful. Accordingly, the keeper of the wampum belts ensured that their meaning was repeated from time to time to community members. Periodically, he repeated publicly the “content” of the wampum belts preserved so that the nation’s history would be transmitted to the younger generation.

To continue your search: Wampum belts are frequently mentioned in the France fonds des colonies and the Haldimand fonds. The Héritage project is presently digitizing the many microfilm reels contained in these fonds.

Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients: Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger, VC

Today, our series First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients remembers the fourth Canadian Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War –Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger, VC.

One hundred years ago, on April 25, 1915, Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger was the doctor overseeing treatment at No. 2 Field Ambulance in a farmhouse near Wiltje, Belgium, on the St. Julien-Ypres road. It had been three days since the German army forced a major gap in the Allied lines. The German artillery had the area under intense bombardment and the enemy infantry were within sight of the dressing station. Scrimger, who earned a Victoria Cross for his actions on that day, remained through heavy fire to direct the evacuation of the wounded from the dressing station. As the last person to leave, he carried a badly wounded man, Captain Macdonald, out of the farmhouse and onto the road where the bombardment forced him to stop and protect Macdonald with his own body until a lull in the gunfire.

black-and-white photograph showing a young man, in military uniform, with a moustache and glasses looking directly at the photographer.

Capt. F.A.C. Scrimger, V.C. (C.A.M.C.) (MIKAN 3220991)

Captain Scrimger’s citation in the London Gazette tells the rest of the story:

When [Scrimger] was unable alone to carry [Captain Macdonald] further, he remained with him under fire till help could be obtained. During the very heavy fighting between 22nd and 25th April, Captain Scrimger displayed continuously day and night the greatest devotion to his duty among the wounded at the front (London Gazette, no. 29202, June 23 1915).

Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger was born in Montreal, Quebec, on February 10, 1881 and earned his medical degree from McGill University in 1905. He served in the First World War as a Surgeon Captain with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, 14th Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment. Scrimger survived the war and later worked as an assistant surgeon, then surgeon-in-chief, at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. He died in Montreal on February 13, 1937.

Black-and-white photograph showing four men standing outside the entrance to a building.  In the background, there’s a nurse and a man looking on the scene.

Group of delegates attending the Clinical Congress of Surgeons of America (including Colonel Scrimger, VC, second from the left in the foreground), 1920 (MIKAN 3260187)

Library and Archives Canada holds the Canadian Expeditionary Force service file for Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger.

Other Resources

Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients – Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew and Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall

The second installment of our First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients series remembers the actions of Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew and Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall.

Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew, VC

On April 24, 1915, Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew, a 32-year-old officer with the 7th (1st British Columbia) Battalion, was fighting near Keerselaere, Belgium in the Ypres Salient to repel the German assaults on the Allied line following the first successful use of poison gas by the German army.

As those around him fell, either killed or wounded, and without hope of reinforcements, Lieutenant Bellew manned one of the battalion’s two machine guns. He and Sargent Hugh Pearless stayed with their machine guns, positioned on high ground overlooking the advancing German troops, despite being nearly surrounded by the enemy.

Bellew’s Victoria Cross citation in the London Gazette describes that even as Sargent Pearless was killed and Lieutenant Bellew wounded, Bellew “maintained his fire till ammunition failed and the enemy rushed the position. Lieutenant Bellew then seized a rifle, smashed his machine gun, and fighting to the last, was taken prisoner” (London Gazette, no. 31340, May 15, 1919). For his actions, Sargent Pearless posthumously received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

 

Black-and-white reproduction of a typed account of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion during the period when Lieutenant Bellew performed the actions for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Extract from the War diaries – 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion (MIKAN 1883213)

Lieutenant Bellew remained a prisoner of war in Germany until December 1917, when, due to the ongoing effects of being gassed at Ypres, he was transferred to Switzerland. Shortly after the end of the War, in December 1918, he was repatriated to England, where he spent another two months in hospital before returning to Canada. He returned to British Columbia, where he worked as a civil engineer. He died in Kamloops on February 1, 1961.

Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall, VC

On the night of April 23, in the midst of fierce fighting in the Ypres Salient, Company Sergeant-Major Hall of the 8th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, realized that several of the men of his company were missing. Twice during the night, alerted by the moans of the wounded, he ventured out into no man’s land to retrieve the injured. Early in the morning of the 24th, as a wounded soldier called for help 15 yards from his trench, Hall and two others, Lance Corporal John Arthur Kenneth Payne and Private John Rogerson, crawled out to reach him. When both Payne and Rogerson were wounded, Company Sergeant-Major Hall persisted in his effort to save the wounded.

Black-and-white photograph of a young soldier, in military uniform, with a moustache sitting in a chair.

Sergeant-Major Frederick W. Hall, VC (MIKAN 3216472)

Company Sergeant-Major Hall’s citation in the London Gazette recounts that after his first attempt failed, “Company Sergeant-Major Hall then made a second most gallant attempt, and was in the act of lifting up the wounded man to bring him in when he fell mortally wounded in the head.” The soldier that Hall was attempting to rescue was also killed.

Sketch of a map of the trenches where the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion was engaged in the first battle of Ypres.

Map extracted from the war diaries of the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion. (MIKAN 1883215)

Frederick William Hall, and two other Victoria Cross recipients, Leo Clarke and Robert Shankland, lived on Pine Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba before the war. Pine Street was renamed Valour Road in 1925 to honour the three men.

Library and Archives Canada holds the Canadian Expeditionary Force service file for Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew and Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall.

Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients – Lance Corporal Frederick Fisher, VC

The first profile of the series, Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients, honours Lance-Corporal Frederick Fisher of St. Catharines, Ontario.

Newspaper clipping of a grainy photograph of Lance-Corporal Fisher with the following caption: “Lance-Corporal F. Fisher (13th Canadian Battalion), who was awarded the V.C. His brave action cost him his life. Two of his brothers are in the Army.”

Lance-Corporal F. Fisher, V.C. (MIKAN 3215642)

Lance Corporal Fisher, age 20, was serving with the machine gun section of the 13th Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada when the Second Battle of Yypres commenced on April 22, 1915.

Colour poster of a Union Jack on its side with a notice for recruitment for the 13th, 42nd 73rd Battalions, known as the Royal Highlanders of Canada and allied with the Black Watch.

Recruitment poster for the Royal Highlanders (MIKAN 3635556)

On that day, the German Army released chlorine gas over a 6.5-kilometre front, mainly in a section held by French colonial and territorial troops. The French, who were on the Canadian left flank, had 6,000 casualties within 10 minutes of this attack, and many of those not immediately affected fled. The Canadian 1st Division troops moved to close the massive gap that opened in the line.

Reproduction of a typed page describing the troop activities for the period from April 22 to April 30, 1915.

Extract from the war diaries of the 13th Canadian Infantry Battalion from April 22 to April 30, 1915 (MIKAN 1883219)

The following day, as the defences around him collapsed, Lance-Corporal Fisher and six other men went forward with a machine gun and held off advancing German infantry under heavy fire, allowing the Canadian 18-pound field guns to be withdrawn. Four of the defenders died in the process. Later the same day, Fisher and four men of the 14th Battalion again went forward to fire on advancing German troops. Fisher was the only man to survive the engagement. He was killed later that day while once again attempting to repulse a German attack. His citation in the London Gazette, June 23, 1915, recounts that Fisher: “most gallantly assisted in covering the retreat of a battery” (London Gazette, no. 29202). Like many Canadian soldiers killed in the opening days of 2nd Ypres, Fisher’s body was never recovered. He is named on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, along with the names of more than 54,000 other soldiers from Britain, Australia, Canada, and India with no known graves. His Victoria Cross is held by the Canadian Black Watch Museum in Montreal. Library and Archives Canada holds the CEF service file for Lance-Corporal Frederick Fisher.

Images of Canada at Ypres now on Flickr

As the last major Belgian city in Allied hands during the First World War, Ypres provided a defensive position from which to protect French ports on the English Channel. It had to be held at all costs. Canadian forces were instrumental in numerous exchanges and battles in both the city and the surrounding area. Images of Canada at Ypres now on Flickr

First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross Recipients – Battle of Second Ypres

In the first week of April 1915, members of the 1st Canadian Division, including many of the earliest volunteers of the war, were moved north from Bethune, France to the active section of the line near Ypres, Belgium. A medieval Belgian city, Ypres was the scene of one of the war’s earliest and bloodiest battles in 1914 and had assumed great strategic importance. When the front stabilized in November 1914, the Allied lines bulged out around the city into the German line, forming a salient, surrounded on three sides by higher ground.

On April 22, 1915, in an effort to eliminate the salient, Germany became the first nation to use chemical weapons, releasing over 160 tons of chlorine gas across the Allied front. Members of the 1st Canadian Division, who had been in their trenches barely a week, found themselves desperately trying to defend a 6.5-kilometre gap in the Allied lines as the French division to their left crumbled in the face of Germany’s new weapon. The chlorine gas clung to the ground and filled the trenches, forcing the troops to climb out and into the path of heavy machine-gun and artillery fire.

A black-and-white photograph showing a city completely destroyed by war. A column of troops, most on horseback, are travelling through it.

A scene of the destroyed city of Ypres, showing the Cathedral, Cloth Hall, and Canadian troops passing through, November 1917 (MIKAN 3194491)

A black-and-white photograph of an ornate gothic building and other adjacent buildings.

The Cathedral and Cloth Hall in Ypres, before the Great War (MIKAN 3329077)

German troops moved forward but, having planned only a limited offensive and lacking adequate protection against their own chemical weapons, they were unable to exploit the break in the line. Throughout the night and the subsequent days, Canadian and British troops struggled to maintain the line. Canadians mounted a counterattack at Kitchener’s Wood (derived from Bois-de-Cuisinères) and endured the terrible fighting at St. Julian: their Canadian-made rifles jamming in the mud, and soldiers violently sick and gasping for air. Somehow, they managed to hold the line until reinforcements arrived on April 28. The losses were tremendous: 6,035 Canadians (or one in three soldiers) became casualties by the time the 1st Canadian Division was relieved. This toll among an army whose members had almost all been civilians just months prior.

At Second Ypres, the Canadians were initiated into the horrors of modern warfare, and from this moment on they would continue to develop into a highly respected formation in the Allied forces.

From April 23 to 25, as part of our series, First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross Recipients, we will tell the stories of Lance-Corporal Frederick Fisher, Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew, Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall, and Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger.

View the Flickr album – Canada at Ypres

The William Redver Stark sketchbooks: impressions and paper

In this part of the sketchbook examination, we are exploring two additional facets of page mapping. The first part will look at impressions left from the artist’s instruments on the drawing paper; the second will examine the paper and the bookbinding techniques in the sketchbooks.

Tool impressions

When an artist is drawing or sketching, his or her tools frequently leave deep impressions on the pages. These are great visual indicators that help to reposition out-of-order pages. The indentations on the paper surface appear as a repetitive pattern of a mark from one page to the next.

Colour photograph showing a sketchbook that has some deeply indented impressions on one of the pages.

Artist’s pencil impression; view from the verso of the drawing.

Other examples of impressions left on a paper surface are the binding materials used by the bookbinder. For example, after a text block is sewn, the bookbinder will apply an adhesive on the spine. He or she may apply too much adhesive, which then oozes through some of the sewing holes, forming a drop of glue inside the central folio. Upon drying and hardening, the drop can make an impression onto the adjacent sheet of paper.

Colour photograph showing the inside of a folio; the glue drop is clearly visible with the corresponding impression on the other page.

Glue residue in the binding structure that overflowed into the central folio leaving a mirror impression.

The sewing tapes and threads used in a binding can also leave impressions on the pages. The sewing tapes are glued underneath the paper of the inside covers. They often leave a repeating mirror impression of the tape, which helps determine the order of pages near the front or the back of a sketchbook. The sewing thread impressions found on detached pages also provide a good clue as to which sheets of paper are located in the centre folio of a section.

Colour photograph showing the detached spine of a sketchbook. The impression of the sewing tape is clearly visible on both the board paper and on the first page of the folio.

Detail of the sewing tape located under the board paper and the impression left on the adjacent page.

Colour photograph showing an open sketchbook lying flat on a table. An awl points to the sewing thread marks on the paper.

Visible transfer of the sewing thread mark onto the paper.

Page and paper analysis

A number of the Stark sketchbooks have soft, gradual convex and concave warping that extends across or along the edges of pages. This cockling happens when sketchbooks are in a high humidity environment. Here, the humidity causes a permanent distortion of the pages.

One of the sketchbooks was distorted along the edges of three sections. The undulating edges matched each other perfectly only when the pages were placed in the correct position. This gave us the verification needed for proper orientation and sequencing of the pages.

Colour photograph showing a sketchbook from the top; the bottom sections are clearly warped and distorted while the top ones are perfectly flat.

An example of cockling and undulation from the first to the third sections of the sketchbook and none in the last two sections.

Binding techniques

Paper can also reveal other clues to determine page order. One way to confirm page order is to look closely at the binding techniques, which leave very useful evidence.

When pages are first folded into sections, groups of three to eight sheets of paper are folded together. The folio on the inside of the section naturally has a sharper fold than each subsequent folio in the section. The folds become less sharp and incrementally wider as the number of folios per section increases. An examination of the fold of each half or complete folio can help determine the likely location within the sections: first, or centre of folio, second, third, fourth position, etc. An exact measurement of each page confirms the position as well.

Rounding and backing is another binding technique that provides an indication of page sequence. The technique is usually accomplished by using a hammer to shape a previously sewn and glued spine. Rounding and backing results in a slight bend of the sections close to the spine; the sections near the front of the book bend slightly toward the front; the central sections are fairly straight; and the sections near the back of the book bend slightly toward the back. Rounding and backing was clearly visible in the Stark sketchbooks and thus a helpful indication of the sequence of sections and pages.

Colour photograph showing an angled view of a sketchbook that highlights the curving produced by the bookbinding technique.

View of the slight bend of the section near the front of the text block showing the effects of the binding technique that can help determine the right page order.

In our next instalment on page mapping, we will look at the dates that are scattered throughout the sketchbooks and how they match up with other sources of information at Library and Archives Canada.

Visit our Flickr or Facebook albums to view more images of the conservation examination.

Newly discovered Robert Hood watercolours help tell Canada’s Arctic history

On April 16, 1821, midshipman Robert Hood made the last entry in his journal. A 24-year-old British Royal Navy petty officer under the command of Captain John Franklin, Hood participated in an expedition to chart the Coppermine River as part of the search for the Northwest Passage. Hood’s final journal entry ended his descriptions of the daily activities as the group of British sailors, Canadian voyageurs, Aboriginal guides and interpreters trekked from York Factory to Cumberland House and then on to Fort Enterprise and the Coppermine River. Although the journal entries discontinued, Hood continued to note weather conditions and navigational data in other expedition volumes, and to produce at least one more visual record.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the recent purchase of four watercolours from a Hood family descendant.

Portraits of the Esquimeaux Interpreters from Churchill Employed by the North Land Expedition is likely the final surviving work of Robert Hood. Completed in May 1821, the watercolour depicts Tattannoeuck (Augustus) and Hoeootoerock (Junius).

Watercolour portraits of two young Inuit men wearing western-style clothing. One is captioned Augustus and the other, Junius.

Portraits of the Esquimaux Interpreters from Churchill Employed by the North Land Expedition, May 1821 (MIKAN 4730700)

Three other watercolours were acquired that were painted during the previous year while the expedition wintered at Cumberland House.

In January 1820, he drew a mink as it dipped a paw into the water along a rocky shore and a cross fox just as it caught a mouse in the snow.

Watercolour of a mink on a riverside dipping one of its paws into the water.

Mink, January 20, 1820 (MIKAN 4730702)

Watercolour of a fox having caught a mouse in a snowy landscape.

Cross fox catching a mouse, January 26, 1820 (MIKAN 4730703)

Two months later, Hood set out on a trek to the Pasquia Hills where he encountered a group of Cree. Invited into their tent, he recorded with extraordinary detail this watercolour, The Interior of a Southern Indian Tent [original title]. This image would be the basis of the print, Interior of a Cree Tent, which appeared in Captain John Franklin’s account, Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1819, 20, 21 and 22.

Watercolour showing the interior of a tent. Seven people are sitting around a fire. One is a mother with a child in a cradleboard. Pelts or meat are drying on a cross beam and a pot of food is over the fire. There is a musket and a bow and arrows leaning on the side of the tent. One person is eating and another is smoking a pipe while the others appear to be listening intently.

Interior of a Southern Indian Tent [original title] (MIKAN 4730705)

Unfortunately Robert Hood would not live to see his paintings published in Franklin’s account. Plagued by horrendous weather and insufficient supplies, the expedition resorted to eating lichens to survive. By early October 1821, it was clear that Robert Hood had become too weak from hunger to continue the journey. He was left behind with two British participants, while the others set off for Fort Enterprise in search of food and supplies. One of the voyageurs, Michel Terohaute, changed his mind and left Franklin’s group, returning to the Hood camp. On October 23, 1821, while the two other men were out searching for food, Terohaute shot and killed Robert Hood. Captain John Franklin managed to retrieve Hood’s journal and watercolours, which were given to Hood’s sister and distributed among her grandchildren. LAC was fortunate to acquire these four previously unknown watercolours which document a key expedition in Canada’s Arctic history.

Related resources