Cornelius Krieghoff, born in Amsterdam in 1815 and an immigrant to North America about 1835, is Canada's most famous nineteenth-century artist. The familiarity of his paintings may make it surprising that this book is published on the occasion of the very first retrospective exhibition of his work. We have known Krieghoff best for his affectionate depictions of everyday life among the habitants and First Nations residents of what is now Quebec. This project illuminates his considerable skill and narrative power as a painter, while revealing his relationship to his adopted country as it evolved from colony to nation.
Kriegoff: Images of Canada features essays by three distinguished writers, and all 152 works from the exhibition are reproduced in colour. The nineteenth century in Europe and North America witnessed an artistic shift away from neoclassicism's monumental canvases of historical subjects to the intimacy, the dailiness, the humour and anecdotal warmth of genre painting. In Canada, as elsewhere, this shift occurred as a middle class, agent of growing commerce and industry, was rising to prominence.
Situating the artist within the rich context of the period, Dennis Reid's essay focuses on Krieghoff as a major Canadian cultural figure in the years leading up to Confederation, showing his work to be as much shaped by his new homeland as his images indelibly shaped future public perception of his time and place. Ramsay Cook's essay presents a fresh reading of these iconic images in light of the underlying social attitudes and political issues of the day, especially as seen by a newcomer. Francois-Marc Gagnon's text examines the sources in European tradition of Krieghoff's images of French Canadians and Native peoples and considers the interpretation of his paintings by the influential Quebec art historian Gerard Morisset. Raymond Vezina contributes a useful, illustrated chronology, and Arlene Gehmacher provides detailed and fully researched catalogue entries.
This book was published in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario.