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From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane - page 23 / 36





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PKI Teaching Guide

Page 23 of 36

  • explore how cultural artifacts may have been obtained by museums and whether it is

right that they continue to possess them.

Video Script: Artifact Collection (Original R/T 2:17)

Part of what makes Paul Kane so important is that he wasn’t just an artist – he was also a collector. When he returned to Toronto from his western travels in October 1848, he brought dozens of artifacts back with him.

Often Kane acquired the items by trading for tobacco, blankets or other provisions he might have had on hand. His curious artistic abilities and sympathetic manner may also have been honoured with gifts. He had arrows, a number of pipes, fishing hooks, blankets, masks, garments -- even a sacred medicine pipe stem.

Kane’s motivation for collecting these objects would appear to have been mostly artistic. He used the items mainly as props in his Toronto studio when making his large oil-on-canvas paintings. And we can locate some of the artifacts in these large, romantic works.

Fortunately, many of the objects Kane brought home with him have been preserved with the date and location of acquisition either written on the sketch or in his log book, providing a rare historical record.

This collection also sheds some light on Kane’s artistic technique. To some extent, he must have been concerned that his paintings be taken as accurate representations of what and whom he saw during his expeditions.

While in Fort Victoria, for example, Kane asked an official of the Hudson’s Bay Company to sign a kind of certificate of authenticity, so he might convince his fellow Torontonians that the people and the landscapes of the west looked just the way they appeared in his sketches. And while he mixed and matched some of the objects with other people and places, the artifacts themselves are often faithfully reproduced in his large studio paintings.

In any case, the existence of his collection gives us a unique opportunity to compare them ourselves.

Proceed to Activity 8c. - View Artifacts

8c.- Activity - View Artifacts

This section contains three videos relating to objects that Kane collected and used to create his oil on canvas paintings. The three segments are hosted by Katherine Pettipas, a curator at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg. Play all three segments to the class.

Classroom Activities:


Ask students to discuss the difference between an artifact and an object.

Kane collected artifacts to help him construct his paintings and to make them accurate. Look at the portrait of Kee-a-kee-coo-sa-coo-way by going to (http://www.paulkane.ca/php/artworks.php?incoming number=31&input split=1). Select this picture and look at it carefully. Discuss what artifacts this painting might be based on and then compare to the sketch of the same man at (http://www.canadianencyclopedia.ca/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0002005).

From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane

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