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From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane - page 30 / 36





30 / 36

PKI Teaching Guide

  • oral traditions

  • visual storytelling.

Page 30 of 36

Learning Objectives:

  • analyze to understand how the creative process, the elements of art and a sense of

place combine to communicate artists’ intentions

  • describe, analyze and interpret art works that convey a sense of place, and make

informed opinions using appropriate vocabulary.

Video Script: Pacific Northwest (R/T: 2:54)

Paul Kane arrived at Fort Vancouver in December 1846 after a harrowing 3-week canoe trip down the Columbia River from the point on the river nearest to present-day Jasper, Alberta. The rapids of the mighty river made for a dangerous route, and Kane notes that scores of people had been killed attempting the journey. It was a time of great social and political upheaval in the Pacific Northwest. The Oregon Treaty had been signed six months before Kane’s arrival, moving the international border in the mountains and out to the Pacific Coast north to its present location on the forty-ninth parallel. Settlers were also pouring west on the Oregon Trail, bringing with them diseases to which the Indigenous people were not immune, and generally adding to the strain on their relations with the newcomers. Kane would have found Fort Vancouver (across the Columbia River from present-day Portland, Oregon) to be a very multicultural place. There were English, French, American, First Nations, Métis, and even Hawaiians—known at the time as Sandwich Islanders—who hitched rides on Hudson’s Bay Company ships that transported goods to and from London across the Pacific Ocean, and then worked for the HBC on the Pacific Slope. Kane even reports that a kind of patois language had developed to accommodate all these cultures, and traces of French-Canadian and Hawaiian cultures survive to this day. Paul Kane did a considerable amount of painting in the region, using Fort Vancouver as a base for about 8 months. But Kane also made two extended trips during this period. On his way to Fort Victoria in March, 1847, for example, Kane saw the steam and smoke still coming from Mount St. Helens, which had erupted some five years earlier. He recorded this accurately in his sketches, although his studio paintings show a volcano in full, violent eruption. Fort Victoria had been in operation for barely three years when Kane arrived, and it was the first permanent European settlement on Vancouver Island. This meant that many of the region’s peoples had had little or no contact with settlers, making Kane among the first to document many of the people, customs, and traditions.

Kane’s paintings of Clallam lodges, for example, are of considerable ethnographic value because of their precision and detail, and because his field work is acknowledged to be so accurate.

Kane’s work, in particular his field sketches throughout this region, sheds light on how and where the people lived during this period of change and expanding contact with newcomers.

Proceed to activity 10d. – View Landmarks

10d. - Activity - View Landmarks

This activity shows landmarks as they exist today and compares them with what they looked like in the 1840’s when Kane painted them.

From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane

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