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Great Canadian Art & Artists

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Simply Fabulous!

What a joy to find an amazing portrait of a truly original Canadian personality.

Discovered, while sleuthing in the back of an antique store, was this fabulously unique photo portrait of Fanny Colwill Calvert, in its period frame.

Not only is the photo a wonderfully large portrait of this Great Canadian Painter, but it also features a unique style of photo montage that we have never encountered before.

The photo is actually sandwiched with a painted backing on glass to create a more lifelike effect.

Its gesso frame has also survived in good condition for the past hundred years since the photo was bound into it, probably by Fanny herself.

Fanny Colwill Calvert c 1905
Orig. photo - Image Size - 35 x 47 cm
Found - St Jacobs, ON
Orig. frame & glass

Fanny Colwill Calvert (1848-1936) - 3

1 2 3 4 5 6
A unique sandwich of two glass plates separated by cardboard strips - to keep them slightly apart - was the technique used to create a startlingly lifelike photograph of Fanny. She, being artistically adventurous, may very well have done the montage herself.

The top backplate, above, was painted on the back of glass, which was covered with a paper backing, right. Black was used to darken the hair and gown, and rose to brighten the cheeks.

The green cardboard strips are glued around the outside of the front of the plate to serve as separators between the sandwiched backing glass when it is combined with the portrait glass below.

Below left, a photo on glass, protected with a back covering of paper. The backing paper, below, has had the eyes and mouth scratched out, as well as the button closure, to allow the painted back to come through, creating a three dimensional effect.

The glass plates are taped together, and strapped into place with the original slats of cedar shakes.

Right, the finished look of Fanny Colwill Calvert, sporting the Edwardian hairdo favoured, at the time, by Queen Alexandra.

The image remains the finest portrait of this great Canadian personality that we have ever seen.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Guarding the Herd - Fanny Colwill Calvert c 1905
Orig. charcoal sketch - Size - 23 x 35.5 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
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...
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Tea Time on the Trail - Fanny Colwill Calvert c 1905
Orig. painting on silk - Size - 23 x 35.5 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
The Noble Redman! At the turn of the century, Indians were in the news, as treaties were being conducted to give them fair return - read a few beads and trinkets - for handing over millions of acres of their ancestral homeland.

Pauline Johnson, who was born near Guelph, at Chiefswood, was making a name for herself, across the country, as a poetess spokesman for her people, reading in concert halls before rapt audiences of white people. But many of her people were living in poverty.

 


Fanny must have been touched by the plight of the Red Man and painted this wonderful scene of the "good old days" on silk.

A Masterpiece of Composition: Fannie was certainly a master designer, putting something of visual interest into every part of her scenic compositions. Just like JD Kelly, she had a unique talent for being able to create the appearance of depth in her pictures, drawing the viewer into her composition by scattering different objects in receding planes of interest. The result - the eye is fooled into thinking it is viewing a three-dimensional scene.

And look at her use of colour!

In the close-up one can see the tiny dashes of pigment Fanny used to spice up the feathers and the edge of the moccasins. Even the tunic, however tiny it is in the large picture, has accents of various colour added. This attention to colour detail makes the painting as a whole, vibrate with poetic expression.

And nowhere is there a single pane of colour; Fanny created this marvellous scenic by building it up, using tiny brush strokes of mixed paint in every single part of the painting.

Her figures are strikingly believable; they look "lived-in." And you will never see a more tired looking canoe. Unlike canoes that other painters often put in their pictures, this one exudes life experience, saggy in all the right places, each bruise a memory of a rapids run, a rock rammed, or a portage pounding.

It was during Fanny's day that the gasoline engine started showing up on Ontario lakes. And everyone - Indians included - started to abandon the canoe for the smoking Evinrude outboard motor, when you wanted to do serious travel.

And the scene that Fanny painted above - a staple of every Canadian painter in the 19th century - became a thing of the past...