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Kelly Page 2e.12

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous Kelly that has only recently come to light, featuring the master's touch with pastel at capturing a great highlight from Canada's past.

The Pathfinders celebrates the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the band of steel along the southern border of the country that was intended to bind together - in the 1880s - the scattered and sparse population of the second biggest country in the world.

JD's artistry is everywhere visible on this masterpiece of pastel power.

The setting is the canyons of the Rocky Mountains, where the biggest and most dangerous part of the railway construction took place. The perilous nature of the work is shown by the packer carrying supplies on a log where a misstep meant instant death.

JD reminds us that rugged nature of the terrain: cliffs, swift and treacherous rivers, endless forests, and snow covered mountains were major obstacles that claimed many lives.

But JD's Canadians were up to it; not a slacker among them: another packer comes up on the right, a man hews survey markers with an axe, while in the foreground the boss oversees a surveyor taking sights, while an assistant takes down the data.

Nothing escapes JD's eye; in the foreground randomly strewn trees from the spring run off shows this area was under water earlier on.


The Pathfinders (Surveying the Canadian Pacific Railway 1884) - JD Kelly
Orig. pastel - Image Size - 38 x 46 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Pass it on...

Go Tell the National Gallery of Canada

To Sell the "Voice of An American," left and use the millions it paid to get it,
to Buy, and Preserve, instead
Great Canadian Art by
Great Canadian Artists.

There is something of intriguing interest on which the eye, or intellect, can feast, in every part of a JD Kelly painting, no matter how small it is...

No one can say that about any Riopelle... whose canvases all have the same title: An Artist in Search of Meaning...

And certainly no one can dally more than a second or two in front of the National Gallery of Canada's most expensive acquisition ever - the God-awful and artistically challenged Voice of an American, a decorator piece which covers acres of wall space in an embarrassingly prominent place in the foyer of the Gallery's Ottawa glass palace. (Hey look at us, we may live in the sticks but we've been consorting, and shopping, among the art glitterati in New York!!!)

The interior decorator who painted this had a lot of space to cover; probably he - no woman would paint something so bereft of artistry - hoped - that since he had no subject in mind when he started - that by painting hectares, instead, he would be inspired along the way to create something of interest for the eye or intellect... Alas he failed; but his agent got rich selling some civil servant a bill of goods...

You can go see this American disaster covering acres of wall space, shoving aside all kinds of Great Canadian Art by Great Canadian Artists to moulder, unseen, in the dank basement vaults...

Perhaps someday Canada will get National Gallery curators with enough self-confidence to pay more than passing lip service to Canadian art, as they grovel at the feet of of foreign pretenders with high priced public relations promoters eagerly hawking their non-Canadian cast-offs no other foreign museum wanted...

JD Kelly - 1862-1958 - 12

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous Artist's Proof of the original pastel above.

Almost as valuable as an original work of art, to many, is the master lithograph which JD Kelly once owned and proofed his copy work with.

When an original is made (in pastel, oil, or watercolour) a copy must be struck from which all subsequent printings will be done for calendars, books, or art to hang.

This Artist's Proof (AP) is only slightly smaller than the original so ensuring that all the detail of the master is carried through to the print stage.

There can be numerous print runs until the colours are exactly the way the artist wants to see them match his originals.

This artist's proof, though a print, has been handled by the artist who scrutinized it in detail for errors in colour, contrast, and tone. And while he handled it, he engaged in animated conversation with the client who commissioned it, as well as the colour and printing managers.

"I think we finally got it right. I like this print!" you can hear JD say, with obvious pleasure. No question that his client was even more pleased to have one of Canada's top artists bringing History alive for countless generations of Canadians to come.

Millions of Canadians who have seen JD's work agree this is exactly how they want the people, places, and events of their country's history memorialized.


The Pathfinders
Orig. Personal Artist's Proof - Size - 33 x 44 cms
Found - Toronto, ON
Titled in JD Kelly's hand, Original printer registration marks

This artist's proof also has the registration marks punched in the borders, to allow proper aligning for printing copies.

By comparing the writing style on the AP, with other known examples of JD's handwriting, we can confirm that none other than JD himself touched this print and wrote the headings for it in pencil.

The firm, confident execution of the signature would tell us that JD sketched this pastel earlier, rather than later, in his career, when his signature often betrays the infirmities of age in his handwriting, but never in his art...

It's as if JD, regardless of how old he got, marshalled his power and passion as an artist to overrule the infirmities in his motor skills while composing and painting his images, letting nature have its way with him only in doing useless work, like signing his name or titling his images...