The First Brush: Paul Kane & Infrared Reflectography

The First Brush: Paul Kane & Infrared Reflectography
  • Closed
August 23, 2013 to July 5, 2015
  • Level 1, Daphne Cockwell Gallery dedicated to First Peoples Art & Culture


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.



The Paul Kane Project
The First Brush: Paul Kane & Infrared Reflectography
Please note this video contains no sound.

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

Authored by: Cheryl Fraser