Kelly Page 2e.8

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Canadian Heroes by JD Kelly 2
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Canadian Heroine

On October 22, 1692, Madeleine de Verchères was 14 years old and working , with a group, in the fields outside the fort, near Montreal, when the Iroquois attacked.

She alone survived, to run back to the fort, shouting - not, as some books would have you believe "To Arms! To Arms!" but actually, "Aux armes! Aux armes!"

Inside were only two frightened soldiers, an old man, crying children and screaming women - they had just watched their husbands and sons being killed!

In spite of the overwhelming sense of fear, rising panic, and utter hopelessness that reigned, Madeleine organized the defence of the fort, with her 12 year old brother, getting everyone to shoot guns, and a cannon, to keep the Indians at bay.

At night she posted sentries who called out constantly that all was well. The ruse of a large garrison worked well for eight days - the Indians feared to make an all out attack. Then a relieving force from Montreal rescued them.

Madeleine de Verchères Defends Fort, 1692 - 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

JD's passion for French-Canadian history is evident in all his paintings, even though the nuances of the language escaped him, with three mistakes in three words!

At least "Varshair" was a creative phonetic approximation!

Simply Fabulous! JD has powerfully captured the essence of the story in this fabulous picture: Madeleine at the centre of the action, tamping home a load, her younger brother ready with the powder horn and extra balls in the pail - oops some have fallen on the floor - a wounded man reaching for another load of powder from someone pouring powder from a barrel. In the background the wailing women's cries mix with the clouds of smoke from the guns.

The painting captures a truly frightening time for French-Canadians, who were living in perilous few numbers on the edge of the wilderness, what with merciless Iroquois and warlike Americans - Phipps would attack Quebec only four years later - on all sides.


How could such a tiny group of people possibly escape annihilation?

The answer - with the right stuff of Canadians like Madeleine de Verchères (1678-1747).

JD Kelly - 1862-1958 - 8

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Simply Fabulous:
Canada's finest sculptor ever, Louis-Philippe Hébert, created, what remains Canada's largest bronze statue, in honour of Madeleine de Verchères.

There is no finer statue in Canada, certainly not in Italy. In the hands of the master, Madeleine's dress just seems to blow gently in the breeze, as if it were thin silk, instead of hard metal. Her pose is uplifting, seemingly advancing, but not aggressively so; her weapon not threatening, just ready, should danger threaten; a fine face, a graceful figure, a symphony in motion, a stunning portrayal of a heroine for all time and all places.

Canada's own Joan of Arc, but where in France is there a statue that can match this glorious celebration of a life, born in the fire of a foundry of the union of man and material and the imagination of a creative comet motivated by an energizing idea from Canadian history...

Above, the statue stands on the location where the event took place, on the banks of the St. Lawrence River at Verchères near Montreal.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Radisson et Groseilliers

This huge Kelly tour de force features two French explorers who were brothers-in-law, and who created great merriment among generations of English-speaking Canadian students who know them as Radishes and Gooseberries, which were, of course, their actual names in French.

No pictures survive of them so JD Kelly has given us his idea of what they probably looked like, after his usual, careful research.

He pictures them on the American side of the St. Mary's River, consulting with an Indian about their next trek inland in search of richer fur-trapping country.

They had set out in 1659, to check out the possibilities of the lands below Lake Superior - which is where JD set his picture - and decided the most valuable area was up towards Hudson's Bay instead.

Radisson and Groseilliers, JD Kelly
Orig. gouache wc - Size - 75 x 95 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Radishes & Gooseberries! Unfortunately the French Governor of Canada saw their wilderness excursions as a threat, not an opportunity for New France. He wanted people to stay around the St. Lawrence River Valley, and develop that area, not spread their population thinly, hither and yon, making the colony weak and at the mercy of the warlike Americans. He even imprisoned Radisson for a while for trapping without a license.

In disgust the partners went to New York where an entrepreneur, spell-bound by their tales of the furs found in the interior, took them to England. There the King was intrigued by their enthusiastic certainty that a northern ship route - circumventing the French who controlled access via the St. Lawrence River route - was possible to the rich fur country in the interior.

In 1668 he sent them off in two ships to get into Hudson's Bay and prove their point.

Only Groseilliers in the Nonsuch made it, and spent the winter there on the shore of Hudson's Bay gathering a cargo of pelts - the other ship - with Radisson aboard - had to return, forcing him to waste the winter in England.

When Groseilliers came back the following spring, in 1669, with a load of fine furs, an agreement was drawn up to capitalize on this great development, and a charter was issued to grant a company rights to permanently exploit the region for its furs.

And the rest, they say, is... the birth of the Hudson's Bay Company, in 1670. One of the greatest British companies of all time, founded by two Frenchmen. Well, not exactly...

Some berate Radisson and Groseilliers for having mixed loyalties, first seemingly to France, then to England. Not exactly right...

JD Kelly celebrates them for what they were, in actual fact, neither French nor English, but uniquely free-spirited - some would say free-booting - Canadians.

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005