Paul Kane

Canadian (born in Ireland), 1810–1871

Portrait of Michael Peter Empey, c. 1840

oil on paper on board

20.1 x 18.4 cm

Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift in memory of John A. Russell by his family



Painting, Canadian Historical (1800-1910)

In Upper Canada in the 1830s, a good portraitist could make a decent living from commissions. While the Toronto-based Paul Kane had little formal training, this small but careful portrait of Peter Empey, a friend of the artist, demonstrates Kane’s early efforts to distinguish himself as a professional artist. This early work was executed just before Kane launched himself on a self-guided tour of major European art centres. While in London, England, he met the famous American ethnographic painter George Catlin. Catlin would prove to be a major influence on the young artist’s later work, as seen in the sketches and studio paintings Kane produced upon his return to North America, which documented his mid-nineteenth-century voyages through the North American Northwest, and his contact with First Nations people.

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