Holdstock Page 6

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Alfred Worsley Holdstock (1820-1910)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Niagara Cataract - Alfred Worsley Holdstock c 1880
Orig. wc - Size - 30 x 40 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
This fabulous view of Niagara must surely rank as one of the finest ever done of that often painted scene. It captures the colour, the drama, the sound, and the overpowering force of nature as it totally envelopes the puny presence of man - the tiny figures, the spec of the Maid of the Mist. But man may win yet! A century plus later the water flow is a shadow of its former glory, diverted upstream to create hydro power, and the horizon is desecrated by a solid ring of tawdry tourist towers jostling for space to accommodate growing crowds of crass casino gamblers.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A classic Canadian signature scene from Alfred.

Probably Grand Calumet Falls on the Ottawa River. Holdstock painted this view many times.

He almost always uses Indians, and their canoes and bark huts as a cultural accent and to give a sense of scale to the countryside.

He also loved the relief of the Ottawa Valley area because it allowed him to stretch as a painter and fill the upper parts of his canvas.

Here he fills the classic foreground (Indian, tepee, fire), middle ground (falls and rapids), and background (trackless forest and distant hills) with exquisite precision, still bathing it all with the wonderful atmosphere and glowing colours of a Canadian autumn.

Encampment by a Falls - Alfred Worsley Holdstock
Orig. pastel - Size - 12" x 20"
Found - Toronto, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

The Essential Holdstock

Alfred painted largely with pastel crayons, in the hilly lake and river country bounding the Ottawa and St. Lawrence River valleys.

It is utterly remarkable how, using pastel crayons, Alfred is able to convey the feathery detail of a tree. He misses nothing, including that tiny swirl of water frothing off the back of a swiftly moving canoe, creating that gentle gurgle which canoeists know and love so well.

Alfred rarely seems to have painted a scene without Indians in it, either on shore near their bark homes, or in their bark canoes.

This was not a "tourist conceit" on his part; he was painting what he saw and what intrigued him.


Indian Canoe - Alfred Worsley Holdstock
Orig. pastel - Size - 11.5 x 19.5"
Found - Toronto, ON

Waves of British immigrants came to Canada in the early and mid-nineteenth century. All commented on the Indians.

As a proper European immigrant from over-settled England, Alfred too, was entranced with the Canadian wilderness and the wild men who inhabited it, living off the land.

Then, the Indians were all around, still living very much the way they had always done, watching to see what would happen as these strangers wearing suits and long skirts went off this way and that on lands they had always considered theirs. They were still using birch bark canoes; many were still living in bark homes from time to time, at fishing camps and at goose hunting camps. European painters thanked them for it.

More Great Canadian Treasures by Alfred Worsley Holdstock
Grand Calumet on the Ottawa River Loggers by a Lake
More Holdstock coming here
A Muskoka Ravine
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