Monday, February 17, 2020

Historic Paddle Art - View of Point Levy from Quebec - 1832

Here's another historic piece of Art by Canadian artist, Robert Auchmuty Sproule (1799 - 1845). Sproule apparently came to Lower Canada in 1826 and settled in Montreal. An accomplished water-colourist, he began painting scenes of his his new home. Over the years he began a fruitful relationship with publisher Adolphus Bourne and many of his works were featured in guidebooks. In 1832, Sproule travelled downstream to do similar vista paintings of Quebec City. The image below is taken from the traditional native encampment across the river at Point Levy, a popular spot for many 19th painters (click here to see some of the alternate views).

 View of Quebec from Point Levi-1832 
Robert A. Sproule

A closeup of Sproule's version features a paddle decorated with a red ZigZag motif down the blade...

This work by Sproule was also the basis for a lithograph done by William L. Walton (1830-1858) and now in the collection of the Toronto Public Library collection. It features crisper details but the paddle in this case is not decorated.

Quebec, Lower Canada, View of Quebec from Point Levy (Lauzon, Quebec)
Sproule, Robert Auchmuty, 1799-1845
Walton, William L. fl. 1830-1858, after
Picture, 1832, English
Provenance: Gift of J. Ross Robertson

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Shaw & Tenney Northwoods

A bit of an late update regarding the famed Northwoods style paddles carved by Maine Guide Alexandra Conover-Bennett. Alexandra has retired from paddle making and now Shaw & Tenney Paddle Co will continue the tradition of hand crafted Northwoods design to their line of commercial paddles. More info and photos can be seen in their blog post linked below:

Monday, February 3, 2020

Historic Paddle Art: Chief Shoppenegons 1910

Here's a historic piece of art dated to 1910 featuring a portrait of Chief David Shoppenegons from the Detroit Institute of Art. An Ojibwa leader from Michigan, the full length portrait showcases  Shoppenagons dressed in ceremonial ancestral garb while holding a short paddle apparently referencing his work as a guide along the Au Sable River.

Chief Shoppenegons, 1910
Eanger Irving Couse
Oil on canvas
Dimensions Unframed: 78 × 36 inches (198.1 × 91.4 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Charles Willis Ward
Accession Number 11.4
Department American Art before 1950
On View Native American S130, Level 1

As a nice touch, this historic bit of artwork received a special visit by descendants of both the Chief and the artist, Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936).

Leslie Peterson (l) and Candice Schreiber, with her two grandchildren, pose by the reproduction of the painting, “Chief Shoppenegons” by Eanger Irving Couse. Peterson is a descendant of Couse and Schreiber is a descendant of Shoppenegons.
Credit/Source Link:

In a similar vein, another heritage painting by Crouse depicting Shoppenegons was recently donated by members of the Saginaw Club to Saginaw Arts Museum.

Saginaw Club Painting
Image Credit/Source Link: Michigan Live News

This large oil painting has hung above the fireplace in the Saginaw Club since 1911. It is headed to the museum at 1126 N. Michigan Ave. to join the institution’s collection of Couse’s work, according to Saginaw Art Museum officials.

The source article cites more biographical info on the Chief as well as the provenance of the painting:

"Shoppenagon was born in Indianfields, a Chippewa Indian Village in the Saginaw River Valley. In 1795, his grandfather, also a Chippewa chief, was among the Indians who met with General Anthony Wayne at Fort Greenville, Ohio, and signed a treaty that ended 40 years of warfare in the Ohio Valley. Shoppenagon arrived in the Grayling area from the Saginaw Valley during the early 1870s. He trapped, hunted, and was a guide for sportsmen throughout the northern Lower Peninsula. 
The painting was originally commissioned by Saginaw Club member Charles Willis Ward and given to the club by Ward and Couse. Less than two weeks after the club accepted the painting, Shoppenagon passed away at the age of 104, according to a joint press release from the club and museum"

Monday, January 27, 2020

AFN 2019 Meeting. St. Mary's First Nation

Here are some beautifully captured photos featuring birchbark canoes and Maliseet (Wolastoqey) paddles from the Opening Ceremony of the 2019 Assembly of First Nations Annual Assembly, held in Fredericton, New Brunswik. Full article and more at this link here. All photos credited to Logan Perley, a Wolastoqi journalist from Tobique First Nation

The first image below features National Chief Perry Bellegarde, New Brunswick regional Chief Roger Augustine and St. Mary's First Nation Chief Allan Polchies canoeing across the Wolastoq (St. John River). The classic, pointed willow-leaf blade design is visible in the bow.

Photo Credit: Logan Perley

The three Chiefs apparently started in St. Mary's First Nation (Sitansisk) at the old powwow grounds and paddled across the waterway to the grounds of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. This photo showcases the sleek lines of traditional Maliseet canoes.

Photo Credit: Logan Perley

The Chiefs were accompanied by the Brooks family who were involved with the repatriation of the Grandfather akwiten canoe, posted about earlier here and here.

Photo Credit: Logan Perley

Photo below features the brooks family taking part in a water ceremony. Prominently included is a beautifully carved set of paddles.

Photo Credit: Logan Perley

Monday, January 20, 2020

late 19th C Arthur Heming Voyageur Paddle Reproduction

Another paddle replica carved during the summer of 2019 was a basswood "Voyageur" paddle illustrated by famed Canadian artist, Arthur Heming (1870-1940). Heming travelled with voyageur brigades at the very end of the fur trade era documenting the times with a mix of both realistic and fanciful artworks. In this case a hardy voyageur  climbs up a steep slope with a tumpline loaded with a crate and large sacks of supplies. A narrow paddle with an oval bobble grip acts as a support stick.

The sketch appears in J.W. Tyrell's Across the sub-Artics of Canada (published 1898) and is available on Heming accompanied Tyrell on this trip and in this case sketched many realistic portraits of the crew and environment. It stands to reason that the accomplished artist drew this paddle design from a real sample in the field.

My version was made from a narrow basswood board and also worked down with an axe, crooked knife and spokeshave. Here is a shot in the final stages of carving...

Heming Voyageur replica

Back in the city, the paddle was sanded down and the blade decorated. I was tempted to simply lightly burn the blade to match the sepia tones of the illustration, but in the end decided to use a thick coat of milk paint to recreate the reddish tones often used by voyageur crews.

A small window was left unpainted on the reverse side with details of the paddle burned onto the blade face and the whole paddle oiled.

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