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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.

William Hind produced nine self-portraits, this one between 1865-70, more than any other Canadian artist during his time
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1937-285-1

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.

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William Hind’s sketch of the Overlanders setting up camp in a thunderstorm
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1963-97-1.14R


In 1862, Hind embarked on another epic journey. As part of the group known as the Overlanders, he left southern Ontario and travelled to the Cariboo Gold fields in south-central British Columbia. Starting at Fort Garry, he recorded thunderstorms, hunting scenes, and interactions with Métis guides in a 92 page collection of sketches and watercolours.

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.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada, and be sure to visit the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada webpage. Explore Canada 150!

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