Kelly Page 2d.4

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Discoverer of Canada

In 1534 Jacques Cartier, a mariner from St. Malo in France, set out with 120 men in two small ships, westward, across the wild Atlantic Ocean, on a voyage of discovery for the King of France.

It was a great adventure tinged with not a little fear among the crew, for, after weeks of sailing, and encounters with ice fields, there was still no landfall.

JD Kelly has perfectly caught this sense of panic on the faces of the less trusting men of the crew, showing them enveloped with a threatening sea, as the more confident "Pilot" stands on the rail, certain that he sees something ahead.

In fact it is "A Kinder, Gentler America."

For decades, proud schoolteachers gave Jacques Cartier credit for "discovering" Canada, by coming ashore on the Gaspé coast.

But his voyages really began the recorded history of the settlement of the Dominion.

The Pilot - JD Kelly
Orig. Personal Artist's Proof - Size - 36 x 44 cms
Found - Aberfoyle, ON
Titled in JD Kelly's hand, Original printer registration marks, Prov - JD Kelly friend collection

Simply Fabulous! Titled in his own hand is JD Kelly's own splendid personal Artist's Proof of "The Pilot," which was made into a calendar in the 1930s.

JD Kelly - 1862-1958 - 4

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
A Marvelous Step Back
in Time:

A year later, in 1535, Cartier entered the St. Lawrence River, hoping to find a route to Cathay (China), and the cheap labour force it was reputed to have.

JD has captured the scene of Cartier approaching Quebec with such creative power that we almost feel guilty at eavesdropping on the quarter deck, as the master mariner and his men nervously watch the Indians coming out from the landmark rock on which Canada's finest city would rise, and the slope up which Rue de la Montagne would one day snake.

JD has Cartier on the poop deck where his helmsman is manning the tiller. His research must have told him Cartier's ship used a stick tiller, not a wheel, and that it had a rope halter, for holding it on the center line in heavy weather, to prevent the boat from "heading up" and knocking the helmsman overboard.

Kelly cleverly shows the hesitancy of the native people as they encounter their first white men, and the biggest boat they have ever seen. The canoes are clearly unsure if they should come closer.

Comparing this work of art with any by the Group of Seven shows, in dramatic fashion, the enormous amount of historic pictorial research - months - that Kelly had to undertake before he could even begin to paint this scene.

It was an artistic burden of immense proportion which Kelly took on, which was completely avoided by Group artistes like Lismer, and Jackson.

What did it look like, in the 16th century? The foot of the mast on a French ship? Cartier's doublet, and that of the helmsman? The clothing and hats of the crew? The small ship's cannon? The railing decoration? Why is the sail brown, not white?

Research, research, research, from ancient pictures, old books, and old men... And only later, much later, did JD's brush and palette come out.

No Group of Seven artist spent as much time on a single painting as did the master of Canadian heritage realism, JD Kelly.

Jacques Cartier at Quebec - JD Kelly
Orig. Personal Artist's Proof - Size - 36 x 44 cms
Found - Aberfoyle, ON
Titled in JD Kelly's hand, Original printer registration marks, Prov - JD Kelly friend collection

Fabulous JD Kelly! Admittedly, not a beautiful hand, but a fabulous one nevertheless! The registration marks are still on the print showing that this is not a run-of-the-mill production print but the working copy repeatedly handled by JD Kelly himself to ensure colour quality.

As well, all his proofs became his personal souvenirs of paintings on each of which he laboured for months to bring to life.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

The First Glimpse

JD Kelly has given us a wonderful bird's eye view from the heights of Quebec, as it must have looked when Cartier's ship approached the Indian village there for the first time in 1534.

With the French ship heading full tilt for the Indian village JD hints fabulously at the coming clash of two cultures.

He has posed the Indian - he would not become relabeled as First Nations for another 450 years - not as a threatening figure, or a frightened one, but as man in harmony with his environment, and as a philosopher - wondering who can this strange newcomer be? What does this mean for the future of our people?

Kelly has depicted him, not as a naked savage, but stripped of all pretence as a vulnerable member of Canada's unique founding Aboriginal People.

What chance would he have, half naked with a quiver of arrows against ruthless white men in armour, with guns and the will to use them to get their way.

Below, at the Indian camp, JD has amazingly captured - with just a few lines - another response to the approaching ship: great consternation, confused running about, wildly waving arms and spears... You can fairly hear the panicking voices.

The domestic harmony in the village, so well captured by JD, would not last long as Canada's Aboriginal People were drawn into bloody wars between white men - the French, who started to arrive in numbers after 1608, and the war-loving Americans to the south.

Arrival of Cartier at Quebec 1534, JD Kelly
Orig. gouache watercolour - Size - 36 x 44 cms
Found - Aberfoyle, ON
Painted & signed by JD Kelly, Prov - JD Kelly friend collection

The Artistry of JD Kelly: This is an original watercolour in gouache, which is a more dense mixture of paint than the traditional, more translucent pigment usually used.

As usual, JD Kelly creates wonderful perspective, to draw us into his composition. Clearly Kelly did his research from the heights at Quebec, stripping away the docks and urban detritus that clogged the shore in his day - and still do - as he tried to imagine how it looked 400 years before.

In Kelly's time the Indian had been banished from his perch, and the location crowned with the mighty stone walls of the Citadel, bristling with guns to repel attacks from the warlike Americans to the south.

The view, towards the Ile d'Orleans, has otherwise, not changed since Cartier's time. 125 years later, that distant point of land would be the headquarters location from which British General James Wolfe would cast covetous eyes towards the superb capital city which the French had built on this spot.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Frontenac Builds Fortifications

Not till 1608 did Samuel de Champlain arrive at Quebec to start a settlement that would permanently entrench the French culture in Canada. Considered the Cradle of New France, Quebec is today, the largest bastion of French culture in North America, and remains appreciated, on many levels, as Canada's finest city.

JD Kelly has captured the transition from Indian to French culture at Quebec, with this fine painting of Count Frontenac building the Batterie Royale, to protect the fledgeling colony from the depredations of the warlike Americans to the south.

He features Count Frontenac, who became Governor of New France at Quebec, in 1672, and set about fortifying one of the finest sites for a city in the world.

Kelly's superb mastery over historical detail is wonderfully displayed here: 17th century costuming, adorned with plumes, ruffles, and sashes; the leather footwear.

Even Kelly's background detail is not treated like a throwaway, but as an opportunity to do more research on 17th century military construction hoists, and - down below - a period sentry's uniform.

Count Frontenac Building Fortifications, Quebec, JD Kelly
Orig. watercolour - Size - 36 x 44 cms
Found - Aberfoyle, ON
Painted & Signed, in wc & pencil, by JD Kelly, Prov - JD Kelly friend collection

Simply Fabulous! Signed in watercolour and titled in pencil is a portrait of JD Kelly's classic heroic figures acting out their roles in Canadian history.

Count Frontenac is a commanding presence, strong, handsome, and determined, his hawk-like eyes watching everything, missing nothing. Not a man to be trifled with. The perfect commander to entrust with the destiny of Quebec. JD Kelly has provided the perfect hero for countless generations of Canadian school children.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Americans Attack Quebec

Count Frontenac's defences were put to the test in October, 1696 when a fleet of warring Americans appeared off Quebec, intent on a crusade determined to stamp out any and all things that looked vaguely un-American.

The Governor of Massachusetts Sir William Phips sought to crush the French into submission and had recruited a force of local hell-raisers always to be found in abundance in American towns and villages whenever a call goes out for volunteers to sack some foreign society.

He demanded that Frontenac surrender immediately or he would - in typical American fashion - leave a big smoking hole in place of the previous civilization.

JD Kelly has perfectly captured the high point of one of the most heroic events in Canadian history, which is enshrined, indelibly, in the hearts of countless Canadian school boys and girls.

As the American fleet is pounding Quebec, and its armies doing - on homes on the Lévis shore - what Americans do better than anyone else - laying waste wherever they go - the demand for surrender has just been delivered to Frontenac. Phips demands an immediate response.

In words that have thrilled the hearts of Canadian schoolboys for generations, Frontenac replies, "My only reply is with the mouths of my cannons and muskets!"

Powerful words; powerful imagery for the Ages, thanks to the master JD Kelly.

But just as good - and fondly enshrined in memory from 1952 - was the large tempera painting of the same theme by Ferne Armstrong, a schoolgirl in Grade 5 at Ousley School, at SS #8 Euphemia Township, in southwestern Ontario. A French-Canadian hero who inspired a Scotch schoolgirl; still remembered over 50 years later...

Frontenac's Defence of Quebec, General Phips' Attack, JD Kelly
Orig. Personal Artist's Proof - Size - 36 x 44 cms
Found - Aberfoyle, ON
Titled in JD Kelly's hand, Prov - JD Kelly friend collection
Like countless artists before him, JD Kelly did not have much truck with words when, as everyone knew, a picture is worth a thousand!

His captions were tossed off quickly, mixing printed and written letters indiscriminately, ignoring rules of capitalization in titles, and even spelling Phips with two "p"s, as his grammar teacher probably taught him as a boy.

JD preferred to devote himself to accuracy in his art, and leave the grammatic pedantry to others. These were his private notes and unlike his art, were not meant for the Ages.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
General Wolfe
at Quebec:

From Quebec, the hardy, founding stock of French Canada would reach out in all directions, sending its fur traders, priests, and explorers, west to the Rocky Mountains, south to Louisiana, and north to Hudson's Bay.

Alas, the French Court and its hangers-on were not made from the same gene pool as those who chose to settle in Canada; they gave the colony inadequate support.

It all came to an end in 1759, again at Quebec - where the story had more or less begun with Cartier and Champlain - with the arrival of British General James Wolfe, shown left, perusing the distant heights at Quebec, right, being pounded by his guns from Lévis, left.

After spending the summer pulverizing the city, Wolfe landed his troops, one September night, on the shore, west of Quebec. In the morning his army was outside the walls of Quebec. General Montcalm came out and in 15 minutes the Battle of the Plains of Abraham brought the French Regime in Canada to an end; and the lives of both generals.

JD Kelly has shown the slight British general standing on the western end of the Ile d'Orléans, just a few steps from the home of another famous Canadian painter, Horatio Walker (1858-1838).

Like Kelly, Walker was another Ontario boy - born in Listowel, Ontario - who fell in love with Quebec, moved to the picturesque island, and made his reputation painting rural scenes of cows and habitants on the Ile d'Orléans.

It would be entirely like Kelly to visit his friend there to get the perspective right when he painted Wolfe - an exceedingly good likeness - in 1905, on location at his HQ.

Wolfe at Quebec - JD Kelly
Orig. print - Size - 33 x 47 cms
Found - Dundas, ON
Supplement to the Christmas Globe, 1905
This print, issued as a Supplement to the Christmas Globe in 1905, can still be found, a hundred years later, at rural auctions in Ontario, carefully preserved by generations of British immigrants who honour Wolfe's role in the establishment of the British heritage in Canada.

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005