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From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane - page 11 / 36





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PKI Teaching Guide

Page 11 of 36

  • research and demonstrate knowledge of First Nations and Métis people’s cultural


  • analyze the effects of external labels on First Nations and Métis people

  • recognize factors that influence identity

  • analyze materials for bias and stereotypes and replace these with accurate


4b. Whom Kane Met There Video Script (R/T: 1:56)

When Kane arrived at Manitoulin Island in July 1845, he was just in time for a large annual gathering that included the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi people.

Kane noted in his log that there were some 1,850 people from these nations in attendance, including many important leaders from around the Great Lakes. Kane took this opportunity to sketch portraits of a number of them. However, these portraits raise some questions about Kane’s artistic motivation in his finished oil paintings.

For example, Kane’s field portrait of Aw-bon-waish-kum is virtually identical to the version he painted when he was back in his studio, right down to the feathers this Odawa leader wears in his hair and the two discs around his neck. Kane’s studio painting of Aw-bon-waish-kum is even reproduced in his published book, Wanderings of an Artist, where he is described as a man of great ingenuity and judgment.

Some weeks before arriving on Manitoulin Island, Kane visited the Bruce Peninsula, where he sketched and painted portraits of Wah-Pus, a leader from Owen Sound.

In his book, Kane describes Wah-pus as a Methodist convert. Among other things, the Methodists frowned on exotic attire, but the opposite seems true in the romanticized studio portrait painted of this man. Kane dressed Wah-pus in an animal skin, loosely draped over the right shoulder with muscles flexing in a dramatic profile.

But did Wah-pus really dress this way? Is it possible that Kane embellished the look of this leader and his dress to make the painting more appealing to the artistic tastes of the day?

A comparison between Kane’s other field and studio portraits raises the possibility that he changed his subject’s appearance to please his audience’s expectations.

Proceed to 4d. View Portrait Transformation.

4d. – Activity - View Portrait Transformation

Kane’s production of paintings from his field sketches can be specifically addressed in this section. Students can look at the field drawings of three men and one woman Kane drew and consider what these pictures convey. They can compare the drawings with the paintings and determine what Kane changed and why. Students may then read the selections on Romanticism and Rousseau’s “noble savage” and determine what influence these concepts had upon his art. These readings are included below.

The subjects Kane painted included in this activity are:

  • 1.

    Awbonwaishkum, an Odawa chief

  • 2.

    Shawwanossoway, “One with his face towards the west”

From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane

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