Paul Kane

  Paul Kane, painter (b at Mallow, Ire 3 Sept 1810; d at Toronto 20 Feb 1871). The most famous of all Canadian artist-explorers, Kane immigrated with his family to York [Toronto] before 1822. He worked as a decorator of furniture and in 1841-42 visited Italy to copy old masters. An exhibition of George Catlin's American Indian paintings in London so excited him that he returned to Canada determined to paint a similar series in the Canadian North-West.

   Kane left Toronto in 1845 to sketch Indians in their homelands and collect Indian legends. He travelled around the Great Lakes but, warned of the dangers of a solitary trip to the Pacific, he contacted Sir George SIMPSON, superintendent of the Hudson's Bay Company, who arranged for him to accompany the fur-trade canoe fleets to the West. He joined the traders at FORT WILLIAM [Thunder Bay, Ont] in May 1846 and travelled west with them to Fort Garry. He witnessed the last great BUFFALO HUNT in that region, continued to Norway House, and followed the Saskatchewan River to Fort Edmonton. After crossing the mountains on horseback, he descended the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver and sketched Mount St Helens and the coastal tribes around Victoria. He returned to Toronto in 1848, having made 700 sketches of western scenery and of Indians from some 80 tribes.

  Kane lived quietly in Toronto after his return. He painted canvases from his sketches, rendered in a contemporary European genre style. One hundred canvases bought by George Allan are now in the Royal Ontario Museum, while 12 bought by the Canadian government are in the National Gallery. Kane's account of his travels was published in 1859 and translated into Danish, French and German. A Canadian classic, full of anecdotes, it complements his sketches in its vivid description of the life of Indians, Métis, HBC traders and missionaries in the 1840s.

See alsoNATIVE PEOPLE; PAINTING.