Page 69b26 Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
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More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.

Original Art (Charcoal) - Originals & Repros 8

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A spectacular charcoal portrait of a nineteenth century Canadian militiaman from John Baker's 36th Peel Regiment.

The portrait dates from around 1885 and shows the standard uniform of the time. The white pith helmet, which the British adopted in 1878, started to be used by the Canadian militia in the 1880s.

Everything he is wearing, helmet, helmet plate, tunic and pants, badges, leather pouches and belt, and rifle and bayonet, were all made in the UK and imported through middle men like the young William Scully of Toronto, ON.

After the Boer War, due to the entrepreneurial spirit of William Scully most of these items would be made in Canada, and often carry the name Scully Montreal.

Charcoal portraits became all the rage in the 1880s.

They were seen as a quantum leap in portraiture for the masses from simple pencil sketches.

They achieved photographic reality before photo portraits in large sizes were available or affordable.

Thousands of these huge charcoal portraits, from the 1880s and 90s appear at auctions. Usually they show an anonymous child, man, or woman, often a couple, staring out from a huge 16 x 20 frame.

Military portraits like this fabulous piece, are rare.

There are no dots; you are looking at the very graphite pencil marks made by the original artist on the paper.

You will not find a duplicate of this portrait anywhere.

Charcoal Portrait, Canadian Militiaman, 36th Regt., Shelburne, ON c. 1885

Orig. charcoal - Image Size - 41 x 51 cm
Found - Palgrave, ON

Go to 36th Regiment

Actually John's poem, far from being an anthem to peace, which generations of schoolchildren have been taught to memorize mindlessly, is a jingoistic call to "Take up our quarrel with the foe" and keep the war going, and damn you if you fail, that is, "If ye break faith with us who die"... It springs not, from a philosophical realization of the futility of bloodletting and war, but from grief and anger over the death of a very close friend - by whose graveside John actually wrote it - and a desire to exact a pound of flesh from the Germans, in revenge... And if you fail to follow through, "We shall not sleep, though poppies blow, in Flander's Fields."

A very fine war poem, but definitely not a paean to Peace...

Right John a few months before he died (Jan. 18, 1918) of pneumonia, which he contracted as a doctor in Boulogne, France.




Go to the Mystery of John McCrae
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous original charcoal drawing of what is almost certainly Canadian Boer War artillery officer Lt. John McCrae, who would become Word War I's famous warrior/doctor poet and composer of "In Flander's Fields," here shown in his Boer War era militia getup, and wearing a wedge cap similar to Palmer's.

Again, since his artillery battery was likely charging across the veldt, when in action, his cap sports a chin strap.

This portrait, in its original frame and wavy glass, came from a US estate auction, across Lake Ontario, where it appeared listed as "A British Mounted Trooper."

Charcoal Portrait, Lt. John McCrae, c 1898
Orig. charcoal - Image Size - 41 x 51 cm
Found - Rochester, NY

The 1899 photo left of John McCrae in Guelph, Ontario, in his militia uniform, before leaving for South Africa, again shows him wearing the same kind of wedge cap with chin strap, at the same rakish angle as the trooper in the charcoal portrait above.

(Comparing the way the wedge cap sits, with all the wildly varying possibilities shown in the RCR group photo above, where hardly two are worn tilted sideways or forward the same way, makes the similarity in the two pictures uncanny.)

Likewise another photo right, of John taken in South Africa, adds further supporting evidence that the charcoal is, indeed, of McCrae.

He wears the khaki issue Canadian Contingent wedge cap, like those of McKerihen and Palmer, the same way, and this time also, like in the charcoal portrait, sports a similar moustache, and an unruly lock of hair...

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Who has ever drawn a more hauntingly beautiful portrait of a young Edwardian girl, just about to go out to the park for a Sunday afternoon stroll, near the village bandstand? Sadly, her name was not recorded.

And it is a charcoal original.

Fanny has framed an innocent face, tinged with sadness, with glowing coils of delicate soft hair.

If eyes are the windows of the soul these are as wonderful examples of inner light as you will find.

It is a study that the master of portraiture, Suzor-Coté, would be proud to call his own.

It hung in Fanny's house, till she died in 1936, then went to her descendants. It finally went to auction with the rest of her estate in 2005.

Go to Fanny Calvert


Charcoal Portrait, Girl in Bonnet, Fanny Colwill Calvert c 1905
Orig. charcoal - Image Size - 38 x 49 cm oval
Found - Toronto, ON
Orig. frame & glass
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

What a lotta Bull! Honestly, now, did Fred Verner ever do a better buffalo picture? We haven't seen it... This one has it all: foreground, middle ground, background - the species, the herd, the habitat - a massive, virile bull in a commanding stance, snorting at the front; others bellowing just behind; and the herd fanning out beyond as buzzards circle overhead. Every part of this frame displays the talent of a commanding artist. Whether buffalo or bison, you will never see a finer bull than Fanny gives us here...

A superb charcoal original by Fanny Colwill Calvert (1848-1936) a much underappreciated Canadian artist.

Two Great Canadian Originals

We honoured her memory by naming our Labrador Retriever after her.

Below our Fanny (a Yellow Lab) the finest, most obedient, most joyfully exuberant, and loveable Lab we have ever owned, beside her deserving namesake. She is the finest example of why Canada's own Labrador Retriever is, far and away, the most popular dog among the 175 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Charcoal Drawing, Guarding the Herd - Fanny Colwill Calvert c 1905
Orig. charcoal sketch - Size - 23 x 35.5 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Charcoal Drawing, Buffalo on Guard - Frederick Arthur Verner
Orig. charcoal - Size - 40 x 50 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Frederick Arthur Verner (1828-1936) was noted for his Canadian Indian and western scenes, especially his buffalo watercolours and pastels. But he was no slouch in charcoal either.

No grid of dots here from a photomechanical reproduction. Without any photographic intermediary - should you acquire such a work - you are seeing the very charcoal granules that Fred himself put on the paper in front of you. It is an original not a repro.

Go to Frederick Verner
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Charcoal Portrait, Indian Brave - Frederick Arthur Verner
Orig. charcoal - Size - 31 x 41 cm
Found - Pottageville, ON
A fabulous original portrait of an Indian by one of Canada's top "Indian subject" painters.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A very fine Victorian Canadian charcoal portrait, in a very fine original frame, of a lamentably anonymous girl from Port Dover, Ontario.

Since everyone who was around the family, when the portrait was drawn, knew the girl, it seemed pointless to write her name on the picture or frame.

Now that everyone has passed on, no one knows who she is. Which is the sad case for almost all the portraits - charcoal, photos, oils, watercolours, etc., from the 19th century.

Charcoal Portrait, Port Dover Girl - 1887
Orig. charcoal - Image Size - 51 x 66 cm
Found - Elora, ON