Canadian artist Paul Kane lived in a century when foreign cultures were expanding across North America. Native cultures were encouraged to adopt different world views and alter the way they made a living. Kane—aware that aboriginal cultures were changing—set out to produce a visual record of Native peoples and the land they inhabited before such a record was no longer possible. From 1845 to 1848, Kane journeyed extensively across Canada, taking graphite, watercolour, and oil-on-paper sketches of the peoples he met and their cultural practices.
As Kane worked on the final art, in some cases certain details were changed and compositions altered. With “Near Infrared Reflectography” technique we can “see” Kane struggling with the oil-on-canvas compositions in his studio. The First Brush: Paul Kane and Infrared Reflectography delves into comparisons between painted versions of the same scene and reveals the initial painting and the copy. Beneath the surface of the finished painting lie his initial renderings, his first drawings, and painted efforts that expose his original intentions for the painting. Were they true to the sketch? Did he wrestle with a desire to present in grand fashion, but then resist the temptation?
This book is a unique insight into Paul Kane’s thinking and artistic processes between the years 1849 and 1856 as he painted in his Toronto studio. It explores the issue of truthfulness in Kane’s art and his struggle for composition. Additionally, these comparisons expose Kane’s response to external pressures, as well as his steadfastness to a realized vision.