Wandering in Canada: Paul Kane

Andréa Fernandes

Few artists had the opportunity to paint Native Americans from first-hand experience, but Canadian Paul Kane (1810-1871) was one of those lucky few. In honor of Kane's birthday, which was yesterday, we'll take a look at his life, his travels through Canada, and his art.

1. Paul Kane explained his motivation for depicting Native American life thusly: "I had been accustomed to see hundreds of Indians about my native village"¦ But the face of the red man is now no longer seen"¦

2. For two and a half years, Kane traveled Canada sketching the Native Americans he encountered. The first six months he traveled by himself, but the other two years were spent with the fur traders of Hudson's Bay Company. His travel involved canoeing, riding horses, and sleigh and dog teams. Over the course of his travels, he produced 700 sketches of Native Americans from some 80 tribes.

3. Kane culled together his notes and sketches to produce a travelogue, Wanderings of an Artist Among the Indians of North America. With Wanderings, Kane became the first Canadian painter with a best-selling book. Since its original 1859 publication, the book has been translated into French, Danish, and German.

4. Despite all the hardships he endured in his travels, Kane wrote of his journey, "the greatest hardship that I had to endure [now] was the difficulty in trying to sleep in a civilized bed."

A larger version of "Indian Encampment on Lake Huron" is available here. Fans should check out the Paul Kane web site and the Kane galleries on Wikimedia and CyberMuse. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at feelartagain@gmail.com with artist suggestions or details of current exhibitions.