Canadian (born in Ireland), 1822–1914
Portage at Deux Rivières, 1893
watercolour on paper
23 x 35.8 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Acquired with funds from The Winnipeg Foundation
William Armstrong arrived in Toronto from Dublin in 1851. Throughout that decade he worked for several railways before establishing a civil engineering firm. During the same period he worked as a drawing instructor. Although records are unclear between the 1860s and early 1870s, Armstrong is known to have travelled to the north shore of Lake Superior on several occasions. The sketches he produced offer somewhat embellished views of areas known to be abundant with primary resources like timber and minerals, which were increasingly valuable commodities for colonial industries based in urban centres like Toronto. This painting captures a harrowing portage route in what is today Quetico Provincial Park. Portage at Deux Rivières is dated 1893 and thus likely references an earlier sketch as Armstrong’s explorations ended in the early 1870s.