Artists Page 18

Great Canadian Artists


Paul Kane - 1810-1871 - 2 The Fake

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Paul Kane was born in Ireland in 1810 to a soldier father who became an alcohol merchant. At the age of eight (1819), he took Paul to York (today's Toronto, Ontario). Paul was introduced to art in school and as a teenager (1826-1830) he worked in a furniture factory in Cobourg, ON, a town east of York. He painted portraits of local worthies in his spare time.

After 1836 he spent several years in the US painting his way from Detroit to New Orleans, leaving for France in 1841. He spent several years touring museums in France, Italy, and England, boning up on his painting skills.

Between 1845-1848, Paul Kane travelled, with a Hudson's Bay Company expedition, to the remote wilds of western Canada and painted sketches of the landscape and Indians. He returned to York and worked up his sketches into large oils, for which he is now famous.

Ojibwa Chief, Fort William
Painter - Paul Kane 1848
This cranky portrait of a chief holding his treaty medal, as if to say, is that all there is...?
Cunnewabum - Métis Girl, Fort Edmonton
Painter - Paul Kane 1846
One of Paul Kane's famous portraits is this one of a Cree mixed blood girl, sheltering her face with a swan's wing. Kane asked if he could have her dress - always a great painter's line with an attractive model - and it is now in the Royal Ontario Museum's collection.

This painting by Paul Kane, called "Scene in the Northwest" is the most expensive painting by a Canadian painter ever sold in Canada. A description of the painting, and its sale at auction, can be seen below.

This painting is actually a fake - for more go to page 2.

Rare Paul Kane Painting Brings CDN$5 Million

A rare painting by Paul Kane, not seen in Canada for 150 years, sold on February 26, 2002, at a Sotheby's Toronto auction of important Canadian art, conducted in association with Ritchie's, for CDN$5,062,500 with buyer's premium. At the then current exchange rate, the price equaled $3,172,567.50 in U.S. dollars.

The sale price for Kane's circa 1845 Scene in the Northwest—Portrait, a depiction of the British surveyor Captain J.H. Lefroy, was the highest price ever paid at auction for a Canadian work of art. Brought from England for the sale, the 19th-century painting was a record for the artist as well, far exceeding the presale estimate of $450,000/550,000.

"We are delighted with tonight's results," commented C. Hugh Hildesley, the evening's auctioneer and chairman of the advisory board of Sotheby's (Canada) Inc., in a release from the firm. "The Kane results show the strength of the Canadian market and confirm what we've all traditionally known: that if you have the best quality coming fresh to the market, extraordinary prices will be realized. A highly important artist, a wonderful subject, and the historical element of the sitter proved to be a winning combination."

The bidding for the Kane painting, executed in the winter of 1845-46, eventually settled at its final price after a dramatic duel between two telephone bidders and Winnipeg art dealer David Loch, who won the bid on behalf of an anonymous client.

The portrait of Captain J.H. Lefroy had been in the Lefroy family in England until its consignment to the auction. Lefroy had introduced and recommended Kane to Sir George Simpson, head of the Hudson's Bay Company. This connection then allowed Kane free access to the territories of western North America. The portrait in a landscape had not been seen in Canada since its exhibition in Toronto shortly after it was painted. Following the sale of the painting, the great-great-granddaughter of Captain Lefroy, who was seated in the audience at the Toronto auction, was acknowledged with enthusiastic applause in the salesroom.

François Lucie - Métis Guide, Fort Edmonton
Painter - Paul Kane 1846
François is one of the people history would have overlooked if Paul Kane did not. This Métis guide at Fort Edmonton is now an immortal portrait of the Métis people that were the backbone of settling the West and North of Canada.

Paul Kane, left as he looked when he painted Cunnewabum, published his book, "Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America" in 1859.

Sadly Paul became blind, and retired in 1866.He died in Toronto, in 1871. But not before befriending a young artist named Frederick Verner, and passing on the mantle of his beloved genre of painting to an eager student.

A major collection of Paul Kane's art is in the Royal Ontario Museum, in Toronto. Other paintings are in the National Gallery of Canada.

Above, Scene on the Winnipeg River and below, Mount St. Helens.
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005

The painting was bought by the late Ken Thomson, who was well known in Canada for having inherited multi-millions, and a newspaper empire, from his father, Lord Thompson of Fleet.

Ken is also known for busily spending his inheritance on buying up Canadian art, especially the works of Cornelius Krieghoff. (His "get it at any price" presence at auctions drove up the price for Krieghoffs to unreasonable levels. After he died, Krieghoff prices predictably fell, and most canvases that were put up at auction, could not be sold at prices the auctioneers demanded and were returned to their disappointed owners.)

Much of it, including this Kane painting, will end up in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Ken made a contractual deal with the Art Gallery. If he willed his paintings to them they would give him a tax exemption certificate worth millions - that he could apply against his income - and also to put his name all over the place inside the museum, where it will be seen by posterity, forever...

Not a bad bargain.

Oh, yes, we almost forgot...

It was agreed that it would be called a "donation"**...

It is a form of "giving" that is unique to the rich and the super-rich, and alas, just not available to the vast majority of working Canadians...

Go to Cornelius Krieghoff

** Webster's calls a donation a gift, and defines gift as "something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation"