This Week in History
From Coast to Coast: Canada's Confederation Painter
For the week of Monday, February 20, 2017
On February 25, 1863, William George Richardson Hind advertised as a sign painter in the Daily Colonist, in Victoria, B.C. Hind holds the distinction of being the first artist to illustrate Canada’s landscapes from coast to coast, during the 1860s-70s, earning him the nickname the Confederation Painter.
Born in Nottingham, England, in 1833, William Hind attended Nottingham’s School of Design. He left Great Britain at age 18, joining his brother Henry Youle Hind as an instructor at Toronto’s Normal School, a teacher’s college. In 1852, William Hind displayed his work at the Upper Canada Provincial Exhibition. However, his first major representation of Canadian landscapes was in 1857, when he produced 20 paintings of the area between Lake Superior and Red River. These images, the first of the lands west of Upper Canada, were based on first-hand information gathered by his brother Henry while on a geological survey of that region.
In 1861, William Hind joined his brother’s expedition into the Labrador Peninsula. His paintings and sketches showcased aspects of Innu life, expedition activities, and the interior’s rivers, forests, and canyons. For Europeans, the images offered a window into a still-unknown land. These were the earliest renderings of interior Labrador, made more unique because of their vivid colours and Hind's journalistic style, which can be described as “snapshots” of the scenes in front of him.
Nine years later, Hind made his way back east and settled in Sussex, New Brunswick, living there until his death in 1889. Overall, he produced at least 400 paintings and sketches, and crossed the country twice, travelling to Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.
The Overlanders of 1862 journey is a designated national historic event. To learn more about their journey see The Overlanders of 1862: Journeying West for Gold in This Week in History’s archives.
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