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Caddy Page 2

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Stoney Lake from Eagle Mount, JH Caddy c 1854
Orig. wc - Size - 12.5" x 18.5"
Found - Hamilton, ON
A photo c 1890 taken a bit left of where John Caddy painted.
When we saw this painting at a Hamilton auction we thought this might be Stoney Lake, an area we had camped and boated in extensively in the late 1960s. The response of other auction goers, "Who would possibly care!" said one collector. "I'd never buy this stuff. You can't sell it."

Local knowledge is important in helping to date art. We knew that by the 1960s there wasn't an island or point on Stoney Lake which wasn't peppered with wall to wall cottages and docks. The last time we visited - in the early nineties - there wasn't an island or a shoreline were you could beach your boat without offending a private property owner.

There is not a single sign of civilization in this picture so we knew it had to date from before the 1880s when steamers first started to bring hordes of picnickers to this lake, many of whom gobbled up the properties and madly started building cottages.

In the summer of 1835, famed Canadian nineteenth century writer Susanna Moodie came into this view by canoe from the lower left, for the first time.

"Oh what a magnificent scene of wild and lonely grandeur bust upon us as we swept round the little peninsula, and the whole majesty of Stony Lake broke upon us at once; another Lake of the Thousand Isles, in miniature, and in the heart of the wilderness! Imagine a large sheet of water, some fifteen miles in breadth an twenty-five in length, taken up by island of every size and shape, from the lofty naked rock of red granite to the rounded hill, covered with oak-trees to its summit; while others were level with the waters, and a rich emerald green, only fringed with a growth of aquatic shrubs and flowers. Never did my eyes rest on a more lovely or beautiful scene. Not a vestige of man, or of his works, was there. The setting sun, that cast such a gorgeous flood of light upon this exquisite panorama, bringing out some of these lofty islands in strong relief, and casting others into intense shade, shed no cheery beam upon church spire or cottage pane. We beheld the landscape, savage and grand in its primeval beauty."

Later that night she wrote:

"I ceased to regret my separation from my native land; and, filled with the love of Nature, my heart forgot for the time the love of home. The very spirit of peace seemed to brood over the waters, which were broken into a thousand ripple of light by every breeze that stirred the rice blossoms, or whispered through the shivering aspen-trees. The far-off roar of the rapids, softened by distance, and the long, mournful cry of the night-owl, alone broke the silence of the night. Amid these lonely wilds the soul draws nearer to God, and is filled to the overflowing by the overwhelming sense of His presence."

We believe John Caddy was inspired by this passage in her book and motivated to come here and paint this scene.

"I'd never hang those in my house," sneered the third auction goer in a row, at the two anonymous watercolours that showed up at a recent Hamilton, Ontario, auction.

The pictures were not signed, nor the places in the paintings identified, two reasons why antique dealers steer away from acquiring such paintings. "No one is interested in anonymous art. There is no market for it."

Clearly these were nineteenth century Canadian landscapes, and large. One almost wishes one hadn't said one was interested in them. It is well-known that most Canadians just aren't as passionate in seeking out their history or heritage, as are Americans or Brits.

But we were. So when our colleagues weren't looking, we examined the paintings more closely. One was hard to place but the other looked like Stoney Lake, in the Kawarthas, north of Peterborough, Ontario.

For various reasons we thought they might be the work of John Herbert Caddy, a British army officer who immigrated to London, Ontario, in 1844, then, in 1851 moved to Hamilton, on the western end of Lake Ontario, from where, for the next thirty years, he set out to paint watercolours of the countryside drained by the Great Lakes.

We asked the auctioneer, who regularly sold early Canadian paintings from Hamilton estates, if he thought they were JH Caddy.

"Caaa... Who? What did you say?" He had never heard of Caddy, though the Captain was a leading 19th century painter in Hamilton, where he had taught painting, until he died in 1883.

"All I know is that when we took the back off one it said something about Haliburton. That's it." So they had left it at that, and did not open the other one to see if it had writing...

We were on our own again.

(You can't blame auctioneers. With some 500 lots to sell they can't focus their attention, or research in detail, only one item. That creates a gap in knowledge that you can fill yourself and, perhaps, discover a Great Canadian Heritage Treasure.)

So there was writing inside! That was a plus for doing further research, or perhaps establishing the time and place of the painting.

Haliburton was bad! It reeked of 20th century tourism. We didn't want to end up with souvenir art. We chose to ignore the offhand reference, hoping that the auctioneer's casual comment was a red herring.

We preferred to focus on the fact that these paintings were from a genuine Hamilton estate. So they had been in the city for ages! So perhaps someone in the past might have acquired them from a local painter.

Another plus. The frames were Victorian gesso that had been badly over painted with gilt a long time ago. Other collectors saw only all the extra money they would have to spend to reframe these pictures - and winced! We looked at them differently.

So these paintings had been put in these frames when they were more presentable in a fine home, say 100 years ago. Awfully degraded today, meant grand, and valuable, in a previous life. They were still backed with cedar shakes, and the backs of the mounting board carried dark vertical streaks of staining where the boards came together. These had been together for several generations, not cobbled together by a dealer in an art shop. Only the glass, which should have been wavy with bubbles, had been changed in modern times.

When the bidding started there was little interest. We felt embarrassed when we held up our card, and drew the disapproving stares of a roomful of antique dealers and collectors, of the kind commonly reserved at auctions when a dumb bidder pulls an awful boner and wastes his money on junk.

But we were pleased. Whoever the painter was we had repatriated his work to a loving home. We shuddered to think what might have happened to these Canadian heritage items had they ever come up in one of their house clearances or estate acquisitions.

The Backs Come Off

When we removed the backs we found the writing - and relief! There was no sign of Haliburton.

One painting had a pencil inscription that said - wait for it - "Stoney Lake from Eagle Mount, county Peterborough, Ontario."

We had an exact match for the painting as to time and place! Just as we had thought, it was Stoney Lake in the Kawarthas, in the Peterborough area of Ontario, before it was overrun by tourists in the 1890s.

This artist was good! He had captured a specific wilderness location that we connected with, instantly, though we came by over a hundred years after he passed that way.

Just as we figured, the auctioneer had given us a bum steer. He had just cobbled together some sparse local knowledge of the location and tagged it with the name of a famous - but wrong - tourist area.

A "heads up" was the reference to "county Peterborough," which was an archaic Canadian way that original wilderness settlers once used to refer to locations in the days before towns were developed and you had to "navigate" by counties. This was a mid-nineteenth century inscription! And it made a Caddy - who had died in 1883 - more likely!

Caddy Comes Home

When we compared this painting, in detail, with other Caddys, we discovered - a conclusive match! (See above)

Furthermore, the same hand had written the inscriptions on both backs, and both paintings were identical in size. And like other Caddys we had examined out of frame, both were laid down on thick brown cardboard. Since both paintings had obviously been painted by the same artist, and had been together for over 100 years in the same estate - probably bought from the source together - we now had two Caddys confirmed.

A Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

On the back of the second painting was another pencil inscription saying "On Lake Katchewanook near Lakefield county Peterborough."

"Worse than useless!" you might respond. "Who ever heard of Lake Katchewanook? It must be an insignificant, tiny backwater somewhere... Too bad it's not Lake Erie or Ontario or some place of importance!"

And you would be right... and wrong... very wrong!

John Herbert Caddy 2 - (1801-1883)

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Coote's Paradise, JH Caddy c 1852
Orig. wc - Size - 12.5" x 18.5"
Found - Hamilton, ON
Orig. frame & glass
A stunning painting by JH Caddy of Coote's Paradise, a pond connecting the town of Dundas - which the large sailboat has just left - to the Desjardins Canal, through the railway and road bridge over the short neck of land into Lake Ontario. In the 1850s this was a hub of activity. Today this bay is clear of boats, docks, and houses that Caddy painted; only hikers and school children walk along the path in the foreground.

This painting gave us the clue that the picture top might also be JH Caddy. The hot sun in the middle of the picture - a favourite Caddy technique - as well as the treatment of the clouds, the ground and the trees, the palette of colours used, and the overall tonality of the painting, confirmed that he painted both. Further corroboration: of the seven Caddys we have examined, out of frame, all are painted on the same type of watercolour paper which is laid down on the same type of oversized cardboard backing.

This is also a view of the distant bridge, where occurred an early Canadian train disaster, sometime around the time this picture was painted.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
The Railway Disaster at Hamilton, CW (Canada West) - Mar. 12,1857
Orig. print 1857 - Size - 15" x 19"
Found - St. Catharines, ON
An extremely rare print from 1857 of the Desjardins Canal train disaster.

A view from the other side of the same bridge painted by Caddy above, after one of Canada's worst train disasters in March 1857. To paint his scene, Caddy would have sat on the far shore seen through the gap below. There is no doubt that Caddy was among the people in the crowd on the site.

Caddy was working for the railway when the train, coming from Toronto - then called York - from the right, broke through the ties and plunged on to the ice into the canal below. Some 59 of Hamilton's leading citizens drowned or were crushed to death.

The original stone piers still stand and both bridges remain in use today, though, thanks to global warming, no one can remember when this part of the bay froze over like it apparently used to, a century and a half ago.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
On Lake Katchowanook, JH Caddy c 1854
Orig. wc - Size - 12.5" x 18.5"
Found - Hamilton, ON
Period frame

Roughing it in the Bush - 1852

In the 1850s everyone in Canada West, and Canada East (Canada before it became a Dominion in 1867), and untold thousands more in Great Britain, knew all about Lake Katchowanook, or Katchewanooka, however you chose to spell it!

It had been the wilderness home of Susanna Moodie, who had written her two famous books, "Roughing it in the Bush" (1852) and "Life in the Clearings" (1853), from her experiences in setting up a homestead, in a clearing, on this tiny lake. Her sister, Catharine Parr Traill, who also homesteaded a mile further south, had written "The Backwoods of Canada" in 1836, and added further notoriety to the spot with her "A Canadian Settler's Guide" in 1855.

When they arrived on the shore of Lake Katchewanooka - Catharine in 1832, and Susanna in 1834 - their husbands built cabins entirely surrounded by wilderness forest. But they had another neighbour who was already homesteading in the area.

His name was Lt. Col. John Caddy. Not we hasten to add, our Capt. John Caddy, who at the time was in the Caribbean painting the views of the British colonies, which today are in the British Museum, but perhaps a relative.

Sometime after 1844 - when he settled in London, Ontario - Captain Caddy ended up on tiny Lake Katchewanook. (The Moodies and Traills had both left the lake in 1839.) Did he decide to visit Lt. Col. Caddy?

There is a more likely destination. Did he seek out Catharine Parr Traill, who had written "The Backwoods of Canada" in 1836, and still lived in the region. Caddy was an adventure seeker of note and perhaps recognized a soul mate. He certainly would have read her book.

Or perhaps he came here, later, in the 1850s, after Susanna put the place on the map with her two best sellers recounting her wilderness adventures in this remote homestead!

For some reason Caddy chose to seek out this spot and paint this large picture in a totally nondescript place of what can only be the Susanna and John Dunbar Moodie homestead on Katchewanooka Lake.

Capt. Caddy would have devoured both of Susanna's books eagerly. And just as he had sought out the remote Mayan ruins in 1838, he probably decided to seek out this location, and paint this famous Canadian adventure landmark before it was transformed by civilization. There is no other reason for him to have undertaken the rigours of a rough journey to this remote location other than to connect with the place made famous by the two sister authors.

On the same trip Caddy also travelled a few kilometres further north along the river to where he painted the scene of Stoney Lake above. It is hard to believe that he was not, in fact, deliberately trying to capture, with watercolour, the emotional passage written by Susanna Moodie when she first saw the same scene of Stoney Lake above.

The Moodie Homestead (1834-1839)

Why do we say the cabin he painted is the Moodie homestead? Because little is better! As Susanna Moodie wrote:

"The lake on which our clearing stood was about a mile and a half in length, and about three quarters of a mile in breadth; a mere pond, when compared with the Bay of Quinté, Ontario, and the inland seas of Canada. But it was our lake, and, consequently, it had ten thousand beauties in our eyes, which would scarcely have attracted the observation of a stranger."

Susanna mentions no other homesteads on this tiny lake except that of her sister, Catharine, who lived a mile further south, where the lake has narrowed into the Otonabee River. The Moodie homestead was really the only one "On Lake Katchowanook..."

The reference to "near Lakefield" is helpful too. It really meant not "at Lakefield," where the Traills and Sam Strickland - Susanna and Catharine's brother - had homesteaded, off the bottom end of the lake. Seen in these terms, "near" meant "distant" from Lakefield. The only homestead that fit this scenario was the Moodie place, further up, "On Lake Katchowanook."

What we have, then, is Capt. John Caddy's watercolour of the famous homestead of John Dunbar and Susanna Moodie only a few years after they left it.

A fabulous historic location, featuring a famous Canadian writer, painted at the time, by a Great Canadian Painter.

Another Great Canadian Heritage Treasure, saved from the trash heap of History by the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum.

Go to Susanna Moodie
Go to Catherin Parr Traill

 

 

The Susanna Moodie Homestead: One canoe heads up towards Young's Point, and Stoney Lake, as another is touching shore, its occupants talking with someone standing by, another sitting on, a log, just below the Moodie Homestead on Katchewanooka Lake. This is the site for two of Canada's most famous books of the nineteenth century, by one of Canada's most famous authors - the lake itself, produced several more famous Canadian books...

The inscriptions on the back of the paintings might very well have been written by John Caddy himself. If, a century and a half later, two knowledgeable auctioneers have never heard of this place, what chance is there that, in 1854, anyone but the artist knew the location of this picture and wanted it written down. The highly unique "L" should be easy to match to known samples of JH Caddy's writing.

We believe this is the only certified picture in existence of Susanna Moodie's homestead on Katchewanooka Lake.

Above the famous sisters in later life, Susanna Moodie (1803-1885) left, and Catharine Parr Traill (1802-1899).

Above, the only other picture ever printed - in Catharine Parr Traill's Backwoods of Canada, in 1836 - that might be an approximation of the Traill, or the Moodie homestead, or a combination of the two - or indeed neither because the waterfront, so important to both their homes, is entirely absent from the picture.

Below, Susanna Moodie on her porch, with Dunbar her husband in front, at their later house on Bridge Street, in Belleville, Ontario, many decades after they had left their homestead on Katchewanooka Lake.