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From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane - page 5 / 36





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PKI Teaching Guide

Page 5 of 36

Video Script: Artistic Training (R/T: 2:04)

Paul Kane received very little artistic training as a schoolboy in Toronto or, later, working as an apprentice decorative furniture painter in Cobourg, Ontario. Like many aspiring artists of his period, Kane yearned to earn enough money to go to Europe to study - and copy - the works of the great masters.

By his mid-20s Kane had moved to the southern United States where, in the era before photography, he found work as a portrait painter. It was four years before Kane had enough money to realize his dream. Opportunity had taken him through Detroit and St. Louis, and down the Mississippi River to Mobile, Alabama.

In June 1841, at the age of 31, Kane sailed for Europe. As he made his way from Rome to London via Naples, Florence, Venice, Switzerland, and Paris, he was exposed to examples of many art movements between the high Renaissance of the 16th century and Romanticism of the early 19th.

Romantic artists tended to favour darker tones in their paintings and leaned towards a reality evoked by exotic impressions from faraway places. And it was in London that Kane saw perhaps the most exotic images of his two-year European tour. American painter George Catlin’s exhibition of Indigenous North American subjects had been drawing crowds of curious Britons for many months.

Catlin’s paintings reflected not only the exoticism but also the individualism and emotion that typified the Romantic period. Whether or not Paul Kane already had the idea of travelling the vast expanses of northern North America in search of his own Indigenous subjects, at least in their subject matter if not in their artistic achievement, Catlin’s paintings appear to be a kind of blueprint for the work that would make Kane famous.

Pages from Paul Kane’s European Sketchbook reveal the places and objects that influenced his later work.

Proceed to 2c. View European Sketches for activities.

2c. – Activity - View European Sketches

An interactive look at some of the sketches made by Kane on his European journey in the early 1840’s.

Classroom Activities:


Show students the sketches Kane made on his European journey displayed in 2c.

View European Sketches. Ask the students to discuss each one and make notes about their

impressions of each.


Ask the students to consider the different sketches. What do these sketches tell us

about Kane’s early artistic training? How do the sketches reflect the social and environmental

influences of Kane’s place and time?


Ask the students in what ways they are influenced by the media around them. Ask

them to consider what things influence their own thinking, especially with regards to movies, magazines, and popular music. What are the styles and trends of today? How do these various influences factor into how people express themselves? Why is it important to be aware of these influences? How can such influences affect accuracy and truth in how people

From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane

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