Art and Place: Historic Places Depicted in Art at the National Gallery of Canada
What better way to appreciate Canada's historic places than
through art? Canada's scenery has attracted local and international
artists alike, inspiring many well-known Canadian artworks. Because
protected historic places are often located in a natural
environment, many landscape paintings were created at these special
sites. Available online or viewed at the gallery, the National
Gallery of Canada's (NGC) collections are held to further
knowledge, understanding, and enjoyment of art for all Canadians.
The NGC holds many works of art based on historic places listed on
the Canadian Register.
captured by Thomas Cole in his painting "Tomb of General Brock"(1), Brock's
Monument dominates the view of Queenston Heights. As an artist
that primarily focused on realism, naturalism, and Romanticism, the
natural setting of Brock's Monument provided an ideal picturesque
landscape for Cole. Brock's Monument is composed of a 16-foot
statue of Major General Sir Isaac Brock on top of a classically
fluted column. Often considered a military hero of Upper Canada
because of his gallantry in the Battle of Queenston Heights during
the War of 1812, Brock's commemorative monument features detailed
victorious symbols. Today, Brock's Monument can be visited in
person at Niagara-on-the-Lake and the National Gallery of
Lord Dalhousie, a military leader who became Governor-General of
Canada, was a supporter of the arts. He believed that pictorial
records were an excellent way to document his Canadian campaigns.
Because of this, many military artists under his command (including
John Elliot Woolford) created artwork at Canada's historic places.
For example, a number of Woolford's works feature Queenston
Heights NHS, such as his watercolour titled "Queenstown Heights, and Niagara River, 1821."
These pieces depict the site as it appeared in the early 1800s.
The beauty and
cultural significance of Québec Citadel
NHS has been depicted many times by artists. The
19th-century fortress located at Cap Diamant has been
home of the Royal 22nd Regiment since 1920 and a second
residence for the Governor-General of Canada since 1872. Artists,
including John Crawford Young and James Pattison Cockburn, brought
the Québec Citadel to Canadians through their art. Young's "Palace Gate, Québec" (a brown wash over
graphite on wove paper) (2) and Cockburn's winter scene "The Citadel of Québec from the
Ice" (watercolour over graphite on wove paper) are in the
NGC's permanent collection and on display.
The East Coast's best-known historic place, Signal Hill
NHS, is also depicted in the National Gallery. William Eagar's
"The Town and Harbour of St. John's, taken from
Signal Hill, June 1st, 1831" (3) (etching and
aquatint with watercolour on wove paper) is a view of the historic
city. Eagar's representation of St. John's has dramatically changed
since 1831. Most illustrations of Signal Hill include the highly
recognizable landmark 'Cabot Tower', but Eagar's etching highlights
the site's landscape and dramatic vista.
Canada's historic places are often protected for their heritage.
Yet, the places have a special meaning to artists, both historic
and contemporary. The meaning of place is enriched with the
artistic eye of the likes of Thomas Cole, James Pattison Cockburn
or a support of the arts in colonial Canada - Lord Dalhousie. Why
not make a trip to the NGC and see first-hand how these historic
places have enriched and inspired Canadian artists for