Paul Kane: Toronto Exhibition
On October 13, 1848, Paul Kane returned to Toronto from his western journey and less than one month later, on November 9, he opened an exhibition of 240 sketches in Toronto's "Old" City Hall. This display was Kane's first solo exhibition and it was one of the first public one-man exhibitions to be held in Canada.1 In addition to the high praise received from newspaper reviews, Kane's exhibition increased public appreciation for Canadian painting.

For the exhibition a catalogue titled Catalogue of Sketches of Indians, and Indian Chiefs, Landscapes, Dances, Costumes, &c. &c. was published by Scobie and Balfour of Toronto. The written copy of the catalogue, penned in the hand of Kane's future wife - Harriet Clench - is housed in the Department of Anthropology Paul Kane Collection, Royal Ontario Museum.2

The excerpts that follow are selected from newspaper reviews of Paul Kane's exhibition.3

British Colonist, Friday, November 10, 1848

"Mr. Paul Kane has opened his exhibition in the City Hall, of sketches of Indians and Indian Chiefs, Landscapes, Dances, Costumes, &c., &c., where he will be happy to receive visitors daily. The printed catalogue of the exhibition contains 240 entries, and the collection is so various and interesting, and the subjects so novel, that we feel diffident in attempting a description; but this is less necessary when the exhibition will no doubt be visited by all within reach of it, and they will thus have an opportunity of gratifying their curiosity and taste to the fullest extent. We recommend an early call, for there is no probability of such an opportunity again occurring of witnessing so very extraordinary and interesting a collection, and the citizens of Toronto and neighborhoods will no doubt properly appreciate the kindness of Mr. Kane in thus contributing to their means of information and gratification."

The Globe, Wednesday, November 15, 1848

"Mr. Paul Kane's exhibition of sketches, made by him in his recent travels in the Northwest Territory, and of curiosities collected by him, is now open at the City Hall. The portraits of the Indians are very interesting, and the sketches in oil and water colours of scenes in the North West, are exceedingly well executed, and, we have no doubt, perfectly accurate. Among the most prominent objects in the collection of curiosities is the head of a very large male buffalo, shot by Mr. Kane in the course of his adventures. The exhibition will well repay a visit."

Christian Guardian,Wednesday, November 15, 1848

"Mr. Paul Kane, who for three years has been absent from his native city, exploring the West and North Western country, has been induced on his return to open in the Old City Hall an Exhibition of the sketches taken by himself and of the various curiosities he has been fortunate enough to collect. There are two hundred and forty paintings and sketches. The major part of these are likenesses of Indians. The remainder are landscapes, & c. The collection is a most interesting one; and as a work of art is highly valuable."

British Colonist, Friday, November 17, 1848

"A striking characteristic of Mr. Kane's paintings, particularly in their present state, is their truthfulness. Nothing has been sacrificed to effect -- no exaggerated examples of costume -- no incredible distortions of feature -- are presented to move our wonder, or exalt our conceptions of what is sufficiently wild and striking without such improvements."

"There is extraordinary spirit in most of his sketches, whether in water colors or in oil, particularly in the figures, and when we consider that many of them were finished on the spot as we see them, frequently under most unfavorable circumstances, it is difficult to speak in too high terms of the energy, enterprise and skill of our young fellow townsman. The sketches on the western side of the Rocky Mountains, ground scarcely trodden by any traveller before Mr. Kane, and certainly never before made known to us through the medium of the pencil, are exceedingly interesting. We have here, for the first time, some of the most picturesque scenes of that region."

"Although we have alluded to but a small part of this curious gallery, but we cannot do so without urging all who would not miss a great gratification, to visit the exhibition, and at the same time afford the artist that encouragement which his talents and industry deserve."

1. Dennis Reid, A Concise History of Canadian Painting, Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1973, p. 57-58.

2. Gift of Raymond A. Willis in memory of his Mother, "Chelsea," daughter of Allan Cassels and granddaughter of the Honourable G.W. Allan.

3. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar appear as printed in the original newspaper reviews.

Two Western Journeys Provincial Exhibition (1852)

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