The First Brush: Paul Kane & Infrared Reflectography | Level 1

August 23, 2013 to July 5, 2015

In the mid-19th century, Canadian artist Paul Kane (1810–1871) travelled from Toronto to the Pacific Ocean sketching Aboriginal inhabitants and landscapes. Upon his return, he settled in his studio and from his sketches developed a series of oil paintings to represent the formal record of his experiences.

Studying an oil painting beside its sketch inspiration reveals the degree of an artist’s commitment to portraying the accuracy of first-hand observations. The finished oil painting, however, is the final stage of a process that may have evolved through a series of adjustments. If revealed, the adjustments may illuminate the artist’s compositional hesitations and thinking. To this end, Paul Kane’s paintings have been recorded using Infrared Reflectography (IR)—where infrared light replaces the visible light source—producing images that reveal the artist’s initial drawings and underpaintings.  

Book CoverThis research has culminated in a year-long series of rotations where infrared images are displayed with the formal canvases giving visitors the opportunity to undertake their own analyses. The exhibition is accompanied with a catalogue, The First Brush: Paul Kane and Infrared Reflectography, published by the Royal Ontario Museum.

Exhibition developed in collaboration with Dr. George Bevan, Ian Longo, and Michael Fergusson, Classics Department, Queens University, Kingston


Please note there is no sound in the above video. 


Comment by Barb

Thank you for this! It was the first ROMHang I had watched and what a great idea! As a volunteer it is so helpful, not to mention fun! Well done!

Comment by david

This is a fabulous story. Thank you for making it available here. Lister and Sobol talk about the two paintings above, are they and some artifacts the exhibit in total? Or is it more extensive including the ROM's vast Kane painting collection, the numerous Kane sketches mentioned and the many photographs taken by Ken in locating the painting sites? Is there a book in the works or in existence about this artistic and archaeological, detective and conservator treasure trove of Canada's native people's history?


Comment by Lead Concierge


Below is a reply from Curator Ken Lister:


Thank you for your comments and interest.  The new exhibit about the French River Rapids project is located in the Paul Kane section in the Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples.  Nineteen of Paul Kane's paintings are on display.  The section that discusses Kane's painting, French River Rapids, delves into the problem of finding the site that Kane painted and then its ultimate excavation.  The display includes the artifacts we recovered, the excavation drawings, photographs of the area, and Kane's painting and relevant sketches.  In a previous exhibit, I looked at other sites that Kane sketched including those in Georgian Bay, on Manitoulin Island, St. Marys River, and along the Kaministiquia River-Dog Lake fur-trade route in northwestern Ontario. 
This work has been published in a book titled, Paul Kane/ the Artist/: Wilderness to Studio that is dedicated to all of Paul Kane's paintings and sketches in the ROM's collection.  Additionally, the work is featured in an article titled, "Abandoned Landings: A Journey in Search of Paul Kane's Inspiration" published in the recent edition of ROM Magazine.  If interested, both of these publications are available in the ROM Shop.  
Best wishes,
Comment by Rosa Trombley

I'm interested in bringing my core french students, gr.6-8, to the ROM this fall. Do you have any exhibits on the history of the francophone culture in Canada that they could easily identify??