Art History in the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, area
The Interplay of Art and Local History / Genealogy

Painting by Ruth McMillan in 1976
Shows the Head of the Rideau Canal Locks in Ottawa, Canada in 1893

 March 27, 2020:

Quote from the Information-Literate Historian, page 218 Source: The Information-Literate Historian: A Guide for Historians, by Jenny L. Presnell, Third Edition, Oxford University Press, 2019, ISBN 978019085149, page 218.
October 15, 2010: Good art reflects the geographic and social conditions of our local history. This web page will explore the development of painting in the Ottawa and Gatineau area of Canada from the 1700's up to the present time. The main general textbooks used are A Concise History of Canadian Painting, by Dennis Reid, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-540207-3, 1973, and Painting in Canada: A History, by J. Russell Harper, University of Toronto Press, 1966, ISBN 0-8020-6307-1 October 18, 2010:
Painting of Two members of the Algonquin Indian Band, 1700's Painting by Philea Gagnon Source: Since Time Immemorial: "Our Story", The Story of the Kitigan Zibi Ashinàbeg, page 20 Painting of Two members of the Algonquin Indian Band>

The earliest painters in our region were British Army Officers. Many of these men were trained in watercolour painting of local geography and engineering features such as bridges and canals. They were topographers, surveyors and chroniclers of large engineering projects.
Encampment of the Loyalists at Johnstown / Cornwall, 1784 (UEL) Painting by James Peachey, Military Surveyor in Upper Canada Source: Colonial Identities: Canada from 1760 to 1815, page 69 Painting of Loyalists at Johnstown (Cornwall), 1784, by James Peachey>

Chaudiere Falls Painting by Thomas Davies - View of the Great Falls on the Outouais River, undated, but before 1800. Source: National Gallery of Canada Thomas Davies was a member of the Royal Artillery, stationed in the 1790's at Quebec City. He sketched while on fishing trips on tributaries of the St. Lawrence River. If your ancestors arrived in our region after 1800, say with the Philomen Wright settlers, this is what their surroundings looked like in the beginning. Note that in the following painting of the Chaudiere Falls by Thomas Davies, there is no sign of the Gatineau Hills on the north side of the Ottawa River! Painting by Thomas Davies - believed to be the Chaudiere Falls on the Ottawa River

January 14, 2014 In 1821, Lord Dalhousie who was Lieutenant Governor for Upper Canada, travelled up the Ottawa River. He was accompanied by an artist named James Elliott Woolford who drew and painted some of the earliest works of art in our area. Some of of his works are shown on our Lord Dalhousie web page.

The next few paintings were done by Royal Engineers of the Sappers and Miners who came to the Ottawa area to build the 120 mile long Rideau Canal between Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario. The book used as a source for these watercolour paintings is Building the Rideau Canal: A Pictorial History, by Robert Passfield.
Painting by Captain H. Y. DuVernet, Royal Staff Corps - Wrightville / Hull in 1823 Source: Building the Rideau Canal: A Pictorial History, page 40 Watercolour, by Captain H. Y. DuVernet
Painting by Thomas Burrowes - Rideau Falls on the Ottawa River, c. 1826 Source: Building the Rideau Canal: A Pictorial History, page 45 Watercolour, Thomas Burrowes, 1826, Rideau Falls at Ottawa
Royal Sappers and Miners Working Dress, Painting by George B. Campion, Drawing Master, Royal Military Academy, 1825 Source: Building the Rideau Canal: A Pictorial History, page 49 Painting by George B. Campion, Drawing Master, Royal Military Academy, 1825
Painting by Colonel John By - Long Island Locks, c. 1826 Source: Building the Rideau Canal: A Pictorial History, page 75 Painting by Colonel John By, 1828 - Long Island Locks, Rideau River at Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

This next watercolour was painted by James Pattison Cockburn. He was well-known beyond the Ottawa area. The photo below is at the Royal Ontario Museum. This picture depicts an Irish labourer in August of 1830. Thousands of labourers came to work on the construction of the Rideau Canal. The man in the painting, wearing a stereotypical stove pipe hat probably was a squatter living at Long Island Village. By the 1840's, most of these families had moved inland and acquired farms in Nepean and Gloucester / Osgoode Townships. This man might even be my GreatGreatGrandfather, Lawrence Burns. Work with me!
Painting by James Pattison Cockburn at Long Island Lock Station, August, 1830 Source: Building the Rideau Canal: A Pictorial History, page 78 Painting by James Pattison Cockburn, August 1830, Ottawa, Canada

November 5, 2010:

Source: Pioneer Settlements in Upper Canada, by Edwin C. Guillet, page 18 Painting of Bytown, 1830, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

One of the most prolific painters in the Ottawa area was John Burrows. As the canal was being constructed, he travelled its length and recorded each lock along the way. Here is an 1845 watercolour executed at Smiths Falls. Watercolour, John Burrows, 1845, Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada

December 21, 2019:

The following text block is from Up the Gatineau, Volume 26, page 33, by Mr. Jim Burant for the Gatineau Valley Historical Society Text from Up the Gatineau, Volume 26 Keywords: Captain Charles Erskine Ford, William Henry Bartlett, James Duncan, Cornelius Krieghoff / Kreighoff, Alfred Worsley Holdstock, James L. Weston, John A. Fraser, Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith, Lucius O'Brien

Portrait Painting

Source: Bytown Gazette, June 20, 1844 Robert Sproule opens a painting school in Bytown. Miniatures were popular among the growing commercial, agricultural and official members of a local society which was able to aspire to a more civilized life. While still a frontier town, Bytown was developing it's own "elite". Robert Sproule opens a painting school in Bytown, Ottawa, in 1844
Joseph Bouchette was the Surveyor General of Canada. He surveyed and mapped large parts of Western Quebec. Here is a miniature which he had painted for himself in 1805 in London. Miniature Painting of Joseph Bouchette, 1805 Source: Terra Nostra, 1550-1950, The Stories Behind Canada's Maps, page 137 Joseph Bouchette, Surveyor General of Canada, 1803-1814

November 10, 2010: An Italian portrait painter worked in Bytown / Ottawa in 1850. He was likely commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church, (Notre Dame Cathedral). In the late 1840's, Ottawa had grown enough to be declared a Diocese headed by a Bishop and the Grey Nuns arrived from Montreal. Here is a death record for Signor G. Fassio, Portrait Painter, in 1850. Bytown, January 2, 1851 Burial of Signor (Gerome) Fassio, portrait painter and native of Rome, Italy, who died the day before yesterday, aged about 60 yrs. (actually born in Rome in 1789) Witnesses: Dr. Lacroix & Philibert Bastien Source: DROUIN Records for Notre Dame Cathedral, Sussex Drive, Ottawa. (

Painting by Signor G. Fassio of Amélia Berthelet, c. 1835 Source: National Gallery of Canada, Fassio Collection Painting of Amelia Berthelet by Signor G. Fassio, c. 1835

December 18, 2010: If there is any more information you could send to me with regards to Signor G. Fassio for my family history: The cemetery where he was buried - If he had family listed on his death record - Information on his son Eugene coming to Australia - Where Signor Fassio was before he came to Bytown - anything would be very much appreciated. My gr. gr. grandfather Eugenio Fassio is mentioned as his son in the - Dictionary of Canadian Biography - He came to Australia early 1850's +. Your are very welcome to put my email address on your site. Thanking you, ... Karen Kenyon, Australia E-Mail: Karen Kenyon


November 23, 2010: Cornelius Krieghoff was one of the most famous painters in Quebec. His paintings usually show local people doing everyday events. However, this one, below, is a landscape painting executed at the Chaudiere Falls in Ottawa in 1858. He also did some paintings at the seignory of Longueuil, east of Ottawa, and now a township in Ontario.

Lake Memphremagog is located on the border between Magog, Quebec and the State of Vermont, USA. This painting by Cornelius Krieghoff shows Owl's Head, a prominent geographic feature of the lake. This photo is from page 64 of A Concise History of Canadian Painting, by Dennis Reid, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-540207-3, 1973.
Lake Memphremagog painting by Cornelius Krieghoff
By 1861, the Krieghoff family was living in Quebec City with John Budden, who convinced Krieghoff to move there by offering to be his agent in a far larger market area for artists. Here is the Krieghoff family and John Budden in the 1861 census for Canada East. (Source: Text Source, immediately below: Dennis Reid, A Concise History of Canadian Painting, page 65 Cornelius Krieghoff and family and John Budden, Quebec City

Cornelius Krieghoff and family and John Budden in the 1861 census for Quebec City
February 12, 2020: Self Portrait of Krieghoff is from Dennis Reid, page 65.
Cornelius Krieghoff Self-portrait
Cornelius Krieghoff, Chaudiere Falls, 1858 Painting below, source: National Gallery of Canada Cornelius Krieghoff painting of Chaudiere Falls, 1858

March 5, 2020:

Cornelius Krieghoff, "Indian Encampment at a Portage", from the book by J. Russell Harper, page 164 in Painting in Canada: a history, 1850 See also our Birchbark Canoes web page
Cornelius Krieghoff painting Indian Encampment at a Portage, 1850

Art printed in Local County Atlases: In 1863 and in 1879, commercial companies produced professional works showing individuals, farms and businesses. This coffee-table sized book is useful for genealogy purposes in all of the townships which now make up the City of Ottawa. For example, Belden's Atlas of the County of Carleton was produced in 1879. Here is the entry for Archibald McKellar and his farm on the Ottawa River:

The McKellar Park Subdivision in Ottawa Last Name: McKellar First Name: Archibald Date of birth: 1813 Nativity: Scotland Business: Dairyman; Farmer; Stock Grower Year Settled: 1873 Post Office: Ottawa Township: Nepean County: Carleton Atlas Date: 1879 Source: Belden's 1879 Atlas of Carleton County, Page 5 Residence of Archibald McKellar, Richmond Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 1879
Edward Armstrong, Reeve of Huntley Township in 1878 Source: Belden's 1879 Atlas of Carleton County, Page 21 Edward Armstrong, Reeve of Huntley Township, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in 1878 Marks Jewellery Store, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 1879

October 16, 2010: To Al Lewis, I have been driving highway 2 from Fort MacLeod, Alberta to Calgary for over forty years. I was always puzzled and confused about a grave marker I saw which was located outside the fence of the Granum, Alberta cemetery. I stopped recently and discovered the beautiful stone marks the resting place of a woman named Mary Fitzpatrick. Sept, 1865 - April 16, 1908. Also affectionately written on the stone the words "Beloved wife of E.R. Chugg. It is very obvious to me that the memorial marker was placed long after Mary's passing away in 1908. What is confusing is that the grave is outside of the cemetery. Perhaps back in 1908 the logistics and surveys were not reliable. In a sad way passing by I always wondered how this person was laid to rest outside the cemetery. I am writing this note to you because after I read the names on the grave stone I goggled E.R. Chugg and discovered a email dated February 24, 2007. You may well be aware of the information that this total stranger is sending to you today. However I am sincere and trust that it may be helpful in some small way. lonesome Now when I am rolling down the hi-way smiling I say hello to Mary and E.R. It is a lonesome scene, the grave and marker is outside the Granum Cemetery fence. It makes me feel good to be able to be a friend passing by just to say hello so they won't feel isolated and friendless and cut off. The others laid to rest behind the fence and tree line are missing the excitement of all the many travellers passing through. I believe Mary and E.R. are keeping their neighbours inside informed of all the excitement on the outside. May all your campfires be as open and as warm as your hearts. David W. Johnston

Grave Marker of Mary Fitzpatrick. Sept, 1865 - April 16, 1908. Also affectionately written on the stone the words "Beloved wife of E.R. Chugg"

October 16, 2010: (Added painting "Pioneer Memories" by Robert Bateman, 1981) Source: The World of Robert Bateman, text by Ramsay Derry, ISBN 0-670-83095-X Madison Press Books, page 100.
Grave Marker of Mary Fitzpatrick, wife of E.R. Chugg Fenced Pioneer Grave Marker painting by Robert Bateman

October 28, 2010: Here are three paintings executed by local artists in the 1970's. The first two were painted by Esther Schweig, from Combermere in Renfrew County. Some of her work was exhibited in an art show in Wilno, Canada's first Polish Settlement. This shows the influence of the Group of Seven artists who began painting in Algonquin Park around 1900. Some of them lived in Ottawa at various times in their lives (A.Y. Jackson and Frederick Varley). The third painting was done by my aunt who is a painter living in Carleton Place. She based this painting on a photograph of my mother cross-country skiing in Fitzroy Provincial Park. Unfortunately, the photographic flash reflects strongly from the centre of the paintings, but you get the picture, so to speak!
Painting by Esther Schweig Another Painting by Esther Schweig Painting by Raymonde Burns, Carleton Place, Ontario, 1970's

November 19, 2010: Gerald Trottier, born in 1925 in Ottawa, was a well-known Canadian artist. He worked in the Confederation Building for the Department of Agriculture (now Agriculture Canada) after going to Europe on a hockey scholarship for his art training. Here is one of his paintings from 1946: Gerald Trottier, - By Ward Market, Ottawa April 2, 2014: re: Hello Thank you for acknowledging my husband, Gerald Trottier, in this website. I would like to inform you of some wonderful new developments. I have recently donated over 100 works of art to the Ottawa Art Gallery. At the same time, there will be an exhibition with works of his art for sale. See attached invitation. Hope you can come to see his work. Sincerely, ... Irma Trottier
Painting Source: National Gallery of Canada Newspaper Source: Ottawa Citizen, July 26, 1958 Painting by Gerald Trottier, 1946 - By Ward Market Gerald Trottier,Newspaper Article from 1958
Keywords: Lorne Bentham, Florence Sullivan, Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Commerce Beginning in the late 1800's many members of the Ottawa area arts and literature circle worked in the Public Service. The poet Archibald Lampman worked in the Post Office Department beginning in 1883. His close friend here was Duncan Campbell Scott. (Source: The Frontier and Canadian Letters, by Wilfrid Eggleston, 1957, page 133).
December 15, 2013: Jeff Thomas is an "Urban Iroquois" and a professional photographer in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. You will find links to some of his works and his biography on the National Gallery of Canada web site and also on his own web site which can be accessed from our Jeff Thomas Web Page.
December 27, 2013: During the second half of the 19th century, the art of photography became wide-spread, limited initially to professional photographers because of the high capital costs of the early equipment, the limited number of paying clients and the time-required to develop and process the early black and white photographs. Early photographers relied on a market for portraits of well-heeled clients. Later, landscape photography became popular -- an overlap of painting and photography occurred in the Ottawa and Montreal hinterlands, mostly on the Precambrian Shield.
January 1, 2014: Norma Dixon is a well-known artist from Ottawa and Fitzroy Harbour.
February 18, 2014: William Brymner was the son of the Dominion Archivist in Ottawa. At the beginning of his career, he sketched illustrations like the one below which appears in the Book / CD Shanty, Forest and River Life in the Backwoods of Canada (1884). This sketch shows High Falls on the Madawaska River. Painting by William Brymner. High Falls on the Madawaska River, c. 1880 This fascinating and most realistic book is available on CD from Archives CD Books Canada, stock number CA0244.
January 18, 2014: In 1909, the artist Edmund Morris whose family had early ties to Perth, Ontario, was sent with the Department of Indian Affairs to the James Bay area of northern Ontario. His role was to paint portraits of the Chiefs who signed Treaty Number 9 in 1906.
January 26, 2014: In 1955, A.Y. Jackson, a member of the Group of Seven painters in Canada, retired to Manotick, now part of the city of Ottawa. He continued to paint in the precambrian shield north of Ottawa in the Gatineau Valley.
February 1, 2014: See Frances Ann Hopkins, National Film Board = Frances Ann Hopkins travelled and painted along the Ottawa River. Her husband was an HBC employee and they made many trips between Montreal and Mattawa. For an example of her painting, see the large painting at the top of our lumbering web page. Keyword: Hudson Bay Company

February 23, 2014. Mark Cullen has sent along some wonderful paintings of Donaldson Lake and the Cascades Rapids on the Gatineau River. These paintings are by Francis Fitz Roy Dixon who became a deputy minister in the Civil Service in Ottawa.
March 2, 2014: The times they are a-changin' : Here are two developments in the Ottawa art scene, 114 years apart. The announcement that the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa will, beginning April 1, 2014, allow visitors to be able to take photographs of the works on display in the Gallery. This is a terrific development. Anyone who lives in or visits Ottawa has a chance to have a much better experience to enjoy the excellent art gallery contents. The first image, below, has been supplied by Taylor Kennedy. The advertisement is for an art exhibit in Ottawa in the year 1900. Anybody recognize any of the two artists mentioned, Mr. Phil Wales and Mr. Hollyear?
Art Show in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in the year 1900 Photography to be allowed in the National Gallery of Canada

April 11, 2014: The Canadian War Museum is having an exhibit of the work of A.Y. Jackson and Otto Dix. These paintings are of scenes and events from World War One. It is on from now until September 21, 2014. The exhibit also features works by Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley and Franz Johnston.
May 10, 2014: Frances Ann Hopkins was the wife of HBC - Hudson's Bay Company - Governor Sir George Simpson and she travelled with him on many trips by canoe from Montreal, up the Ottawa River to the Height of Land and then down to James Bay. She was a remarkable painter. One of her paintings is shown at the top of our web page on Lumbering. The painting below is a photograph by Mark Cullen who bought this painting years ago. The painting illustrates the water and an island in the Pre-cambrian Shield, presumably on the Ottawa or St. Lawrence River. These two birch bark canoes are powered by sail.
Painting by Frances Ann Hopkins, c. 1860's
A 36 foot long birch bark canoe was built by the Algonquin First Nation at Pikwakanagan in Renfrew County in the 1950's.
June 11, 2014: Ralph Burton was a contemporary painter of the Group of Seven and was a friend and painting companion to A.Y. Jackson, whom he knew when Jackson had retired to Manotick. He painted many of the old houses and industrial complexes just before LeBreton Flats was a victim of a "slum clearance" purge by the City of Ottawa.
July 19, 2014: Joseph Karsh, a world famous photographer, lived in Ottawa and is buried at Notre Dame Cemetery. His wife was Solange Gauthier.
Yousuf KARSH, photographer, grave marker

December 4, 2014: Here are three wonderful works of art from Wally Schaber: Hi Al I was reading your Art column and enjoyed it. It was the only images available prior to photography for historic reference so its important. Here's three I found re Des Joachims. The first one is by British Officer Philip John Bainbrigge done in the early 1840s before William Logans survey. Only the same shanty Logan mentions in his journal is visible. The second sketch is by George H. Perry done in 1858. It shows Coltons Hotel and is titled "Coltons at Des Joachims". The third is a beautiful watercolour from Canadian Scenery showing the same scene around 1872. ... Wally
Source: Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN # 2896113 The first one below of the voyageur canoe appears on the cover of the new nautical charts for this part of the Ottawa. The artist is quite well known - Bainbrigge. There is a proof at Queens University who is the expert. Painting at Des Joachims, Ottawa River, by Bainbrigge, 1840's December 10, 2014 Source for the sketch below: Hi Al The sketch is from George Hugo Perrys sketchbook which is in the Gatineau archives restoration centre. Perry lived 1817-1888 and this sketch is dated 1858 Mikan No 2910303 (Library and Archives Canada) title "Coltons at Des Joachims". He did 10 sketches in the area from Des Joachims to the mouth of the Dumoine as reference sketches not artwork like the other two. There are two sketchbooks with 113 sketches done 1856-58 of the Upper Ottawa. The copyright has expired but we are to credit :Library and Archives Canada, Acc.No 1989-124-2.48R ... Wally Sketch at Des Joachims, Ottawa River, by Bainbrigge, 1840's Painting at Des Joachims, Ottawa River, from Canadian Scenery, 1872 Note: The above three art works were executed at Des Joachims, where the Dumoine River enters the Ottawa River.
December 5, 2014: Hi Al Here's a watercolour of Gatineau Point I own MD Long 1895 (M. de Long ?) Wally Schaber 1895 watercolour of Gatineau Pointe, by M. de Long 1895 watercolour of Gatineau Pointe, by M. de Long
December 19, 2014: The picturesque hiils and dales: The Gatineau Through Artists' Eyes by Jim Burant, is an excellent article which appears in "Up the Gatineau" volume 26, pages 32-40. This journal is published by the Historical Society of the Gatineau. Many artists who painted in the Gatineau Valley are discussed: Thomas Davies, Captain Henry DuVernet, Royal Engineer Henry Pooley, Captain Charles Erskine Ford, William Henry Bartlett, James Duncan from Montreal, Cornelius Kreighoff, Alfred Worsley Holdstock, James L. Weston, John A. Fraser, Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith and Lucius O'Brien. Pause to catch my breath. Edwin Whitefield, William S. Austin, A. E. Edmonds, Alexander Jamieson Russell, Jenny Russell Simpson, Colin Forbes, James Wilson, Franklin Brownell, John W. H. Watts, Charles Eugene Moss. Also J. E. H. MacDonald and Lawren Harris of the Group of Seven. More ... Henri Masson, Frank Hennessey, Graham Norwell, Wilfrid Flood, Maurice Hall Haycock, Goodridge Roberts, Firth MacGregor, Bernard More, Marian Willson (daughter of Carbide Willson), Robert Hyndman, Stephen Braithwaite, Jack Martin, John Eaton, Stephanie Ford, Gail Ray, Mary Smith and Jean-Yves Vigneau. ... Al
February 6, 2015: Here is a terrific book just acquired by the library of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. It is called A Place in History, Twenty Years of Acquiring Paintings, Drawings and Prints at the National Archives of Canada. Published in 1991 by the National Archives of Canada (now called Library and Archives Canada), the ISBN is 0-660-13740-2, 290 pages and contains hundreds of individual art works and documents relating to Canada's history.
April 25,2016: History Of Art And Artists Of Ottawa And Surroundings, 1790-1970, by Jim Burant, available at the Ottawa Room of the Ottawa Public Library (Main Branch), 3 volumes.
April 30,2017: Hi Al, I thought you might add this to your Art History in Ottawa or lumbering page. The first work is one I recently acquired. It is a fine watercolour by John A. Fraser, one of Canada's best known landscape painters of the second half of the 19th Century. It is entitled "Ottawa and depicts the reforming of cribs of a timber raft on the Ottawa River after passing through rapids. The title suggests a location near Ottawa, but if so, the horizon is unlike the Gatineau Hills in the area. It may just be a stylistic treatmen t by Fraser, or perhaps he was only referring to the Ottawa River. One of your site visitors might have an idea about the location.
John Fraser Painting
The second work is by Lucius O'Brien, known as Canada's best landscape artist of the same period and founding president of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1881. It recently changed ownership in the market. For the sale, it was entitled "Upper Ottawa River", dated 1875 and at 27 x 19 ½ inches, is one of the largest O'Briens sold in recent years. It depicts the artist and his canoeist at a campfire in late afternoon. After researching exhibition catalogues of the day, I am fairly certain this is the work entitled "At the end of the day Des Joachim" offered for $200 in the 3rd annual OSA exhibition in 1876. The location may be Colton Bay on the Ottawa River near the start of the portage trail which at that time bypassed the Rapides des Joachim. ... Mark Cullen
Upper Ottawa River Painting By Lucius O'Brien

December 22, 2019: Here is Clarence Gagnon, one of my favourite painters. There are many of his paintings spread around this web site. The one below is on our Maniwaki, Quebec page.
1938 Photograph of painter Clarence Gagnon in Ottawa Quebec Winter Scene by the artist Clarence Gagnon

E-mail Allan Lewis

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