Monday, March 19, 2012

Lake St. George Quebec by George Heriot

This grand old painting shows an intriguing, classical management of light.  I expect, that its a watercolour, since that was the media that the artist, George Heriot was best known for.  There is a sort of ornate delicacy in the foreground trees. His work has a masterful layering of tonal values, from the immediate darks to the distant hills where the hills blend into the soft sky  The work is patiently executed, and Heriot gives careful attention to small details. You can, for example, see the trunks of the trees along the distant shore of the lake.  Because the painting is relatively small , close examination  suggests that the people in the foreground may be fishing from a boat. Its not often that I see a painting where the artist uses the sky to funnel the eye downward towards his subject.  I'm uncertain who this painting was painted for. Its delicacy and its rolling distant hills and its composition, indicates a controlled and pleasing landscape within which people are comfortably situated. Its far from Tennyson's "Red in fang and claws", world.  It was painted in Quebec between 1796 and 1806 and in my mind it seems a little park like.  A little too, civilized.  And taking this thought a step further, a little too English?  It seems to me that its an example where art tells people what they want to think they see in Canada and not what it actually looks like.  But, all that aside, I am fascinated by the way he paints with the light, and organizes his work.

Heriot came to Canada in 1792, and returned to the UK, where he attended the University of Edinburgh. His ascendency in the colony peaked at him becoming the Postmaster General for British North America, which he obtained through knowing William Pitt.

Wikipedia says that he likely learned to paint in the picturesque style at  Woolwich. Heriot published two books on Canada, The History of Canada, from its first discovery (1804) and Travels Through the Canada, (1807)  The latter book is richly decorated with his pictures

The information in the last few paragraphs came from Wikipedia. Please click here.  Please note the  footnotes giving the sources for the Wikipedia article, at the bottom..

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