Humme Page 40

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Joseph Julius Humme OSA (1825-1889)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Vying with the best Indian works of Peter Rindisbacher (1820s), Frederick Verner (1890s), and William Armstrong (1890s), is this fabulous work of an Ojibway winter camp, masterfully captured, forever, by Julius Humme, probably on the shore of Lake Couchiching in central Ontario, at a time when Canada's First Peoples were still living in a traditional way.

It has arresting composition, with a masterfully executed dog group, centred out with a fortuitous stab of light, so instantly grabbing our attention in the foreground.

Here Julius has given us individual dog portraits that show endearing personalities that any dog owner can only recall with a smile.

Ojibway Winter Camp, Lake Couchiching, Ontario - Joseph Julius Humme OSA, c 1880
Orig. oil on canvas - Size - 42 x 60 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Signed monogram JH

Perhaps they are watching guard at the camp's edge to prevent wild animals coming too near.

After letting us savour the dog portraits, Julius leads our eye with an artist's S curve, and a middle ground dog, perhaps hoping for a morsel tossed his way, to the Indian group socializing in the background around a fire. Beside them, a rack keeps the food, or chewables, off the ground, away from gnawing critters. Our eye is then taken to a woman and her papoose about to enter a tent. Behind her is the icy surface of a narrow lake hemmed in by a forested shore and distant hills. The eye comes round the tents on the right and finishes off with satisfaction to dwell once more on the personalities waiting patiently in the foreground.

As an ethnographic work its detail is perhaps not as rich as Armstrong and Verner at their best, but it is unsurpassed among painters of Canada's Indian peoples, in the human warmth the work exudes, what with each group in the community keeping their separate counsel while they endure the truly awful cold of a Canadian winter.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A Chippewa tipi camp, painted in the mid-nineteenth century on the Black River which flows into Lake Couchiching in Northern Ontario. The Chippewas are Algonquin (Ojibway) speaking people.

From the size of the huge slabs of elm or birch bark that were used for the tipis, it is clear that lumbering had not yet raped the land of its ancient trees in this part of the province. Before long, trees that could provide bark of this size would be only a memory, as they remain to this day.

We can see that while Indians still lived at least part of the year in bark tipis, they wore store clothes.

This group of women are also involved in making baskets, many still for personal use, but others for use by nonnative pioneers that were coming in to settle on their former hunting and trapping grounds.

Towards the end of the century tourists, whose lungs were increasingly clogged by urban coal dust and smog came to the wilderness areas to breathe fresh air, enjoy nature, and buy Indian tourist wares.

Today their descendants are the Chippewas of the Rama Reserve, getting wealthy from another tourist pastime - gambling.

Ojibway Basket Weaving, Black River, Ontario (detail) - Joseph Julius Humme OSA (1825-1889)
Orig. oil on canvas - Size - 41 x 54 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Signed monogram JH

, is another Julius Humme, of an Indian Chief, very likely also Ojibway.

Members of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation are descendants of a larger Band known as the Chippewas of Lake Huron and Lake Simcoe. In October of 1818 the Chippewas surrendered a large tract of land south of Georgian Bay, and in 1830 they were settled by Sir John Colborne onto land between Coldwater and Lake Couchiching, the "Coldwater Tract."

They surrendered this settlement in November of 1836 and subsequently subdivided into three distinct Bands and settled onto separate reserves -- Chief Yellowhead and his Band going to Rama in 1838, Chief Aisance and his Band going to Beausoleil Island in 1842, and Chief Joseph Snake and his Band going to Snake Island (now Georgina Island) in about 1838. Two parcels of the Rama reserve land were later surrendered and sold -- one in the late 1870s and the other in 1885. (Chiefs of Ontario)

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