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From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane - page 28 / 36

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PKI Teaching Guide

Page 28 of 36

  • investigate how artists use field notes, sketches, and primary and secondary source

materials as research for their artworks.

Video Script: Travel Adventures (R/T 2:47)

There must be little doubt that Kane was, in addition to a gifted painter, a very sturdy fellow. The methods of travel during his two journeys, especially the longer one between 1846 and 1848, would strike terror into any modern person accustomed to comfortable trains and planes.

Kane’s route took him inland from the northwest part of Lake Superior, at Fort William (near today’s city of Thunder Bay). From there he and his party were forced to portage their canoes and supplies over miles of rugged, often swampy terrain in modern northwestern Ontario until they reached Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River.

During his travels in today’s southern Manitoba, Kane witnessed one of the last of the massive buffalo hunts when he joined Métis hunters. He even reports killing a few himself, though he’s nearly killed in the process after being thrown from his horse.

He also made several treacherous canoe trips, one through the “Dalles de Mort” en route to Fort Vancouver (the site of modern-day Vancouver, Washington). These “Rapids of the Dead” had killed eight men years earlier and left another two dead to starvation when their canoes capsized. In fact, in an event he recorded in his field notes, one of Kane’s own party lost a canoe and almost the lives of all on board.

On his way over the mountains to Fort Edmonton in November and December 1847, Kane made it through some incredible hardships: blizzards, minus 40˚ temperatures, 10-foot-deep snow, and very limited food.

Being the prairie headquarters for the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Fort was very well equipped and afforded a relatively comfortable lifestyle.

During his time at Fort Edmonton, Kane made many hunting trips with a Métis guide named François Lucie. In January 1848, Kane left Fort Edmonton in a dog sled driven by Lucie who was taking a wedding party down the North Saskatchewan River to their new home at Fort Pitt, just over today’s border between Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Kane’s paintings of this and many other scenes offer a glimpse of the unspoiled beauty of the Great Lakes, prairies, mountains, and Pacific coast. But they are also a reminder of the challenge of traversing such a vast territory, which, at least in the mountain valleys and passes of Jasper National Park, remains wilderness today.

Now compare how Kane wrote about these adventures in his field notes and his published book.

Proceed to Activity 10.c – Compare Adventure Text

10c. - Activity - Compare Adventure Text

There are two samples of Kane’s writings in this section reproduced from the travelogue published under his name - Wanderings of an Artist. Also presented are the corresponding field notes. It is possible to compare.

From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane

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