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Kelly Page 2e.9

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Canadian Heroes by JD Kelly 3
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Governor Simcoe in Navy Hall, Newark, Now Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1792 - JD Kelly
Orig. personal Artist's Proof - Size - 43 x 56 cm
Found - Aberfoyle, ON
Titled in JD Kelly's hand, Original printer registration marks, Prov - JD Kelly friend collection

Simply Fabulous! Another fine artist's proof of a famous JD Kelly creation.


John Graves Simcoe left and below might be called the founder of Ontario, as he was the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, created in 1791. After the American Revolution United Empire Loyalist settlers sought refuge in a largely empty Canada West, today's southern Ontario.

In 1792 John Graves Simcoe arrived at Fort George at Newark on the other side of the Niagara River from the United States and Fort Niagara.


He oversaw the first meeting of the Council and Assembly of Upper Canada in Navy Hall on Sept. 17, 1792

He came to the conclusion that a spot so close to the shore of the warlike Americans was no place for a provincial capital.

JD Kelly has wonderfully illustrated Simcoe's obvious predicament. He is sitting in Navy Hall, and out the window is the point of land on which the American guns of Fort Niagara - abandoned by the French thirty years before - are located.

After his first suggestion to move the capital to London, a distance inland, was rejected he got agreement to move the capital from Newark across Lake Ontario to a spot near where the recently evicted French (1759) had previously had a fort on Toronto Bay. Inside a long spit of land he set out a town site which he named York.

His wife, Elizabeth, named the two rivers in the neighbourhood, the Don and the Humber, after streams in England.

Simcoe started construction on three main roads leading out from York that are still main thoroughfares in Southern Ontario today: the Kingston Road eastward to Kingston, the Dundas Road, west to Hamilton and London, and Yonge Street, Toronto's main street north to Lake Simcoe, which he named after his father. These roads were for military defence; in fact they spurred the quick settlement of the interior of Upper Canada. Simcoe sold plots of land to Americans, hoping they would become loyalists and help defend the province.

Simcoe anglicized the province even more, introducing the English court system, including trial by jury, and implementing English common law. Over the objections of the local Assembly, many of whom had brought slaves from America, he pushed through legislation for the gradual abolition of slavery in the province, which came to pass long before it was implemented in England.

JD Kelly - 1862-1958 - 9

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
General Isaac Brock
The Hero of Upper Canada

After the American Revolution Britain lost the Thirteen Colonies and a new border arose, separating Canada, which chose to remain British, from her revolting neighbours to the south.

But the Americans were bitter, burning the homes and farms of "traitors" who opted to remain British. So thousands of Americans, considering themselves proud "United Empire Loyalists," voted with their feet, bringing their families, with a few possessions, across the border. In Upper Canada - today's Ontario - they crossed the Niagara River and settled on the Niagara Peninsula, where they hoped to find peace.

But festering grievances between Britain and her former American colony erupted in war, again, in 1812. Britain had been fighting Napoleon for years in Europe. Her blockade of French ports angered the Americans who wanted access for trading. Americans claimed the British were also fomenting uprisings among her western Indian populations. Many Americans just wanted to grab Canada because it was easy, and unfinished business from 1776 and all that.

Everyone knew there was a security problem along the Niagara frontier; and that it would only be a matter of time before the Americans would cross over and attack... Upper Canada was sparsely settled, poorly defended, and many Americans who had come across as UELs, a generation before, were now American sympathizers. Governor Simcoe's hope to use land grants to bribe them into becoming good citizens was being tested...

The consensus, on all sides, was that Canada was "easy pickins," with US President Thomas Jefferson opining that it was simply a matter of "marching through."

Then in rode General Isaac Brock, on Alfred...

General Brock, JD Kelly
Orig. print - Size - 41 x 59 cm
Found - Brampton, ON
Prov - JD Kelly friend collection

Brock was a British career soldier who had come to Canada in 1802, and for the next ten years busied himself with the main concern of the British army in Canada in those years - preparing Canadian towns and cities against an attack by the warlike Americans.

By 1812 he was a Major-General in charge of the Defence of Upper Canada, a task to which he had devoted himself for years.

He had put backbone into the British Army defending the border in Upper Canada. When hearing that mutineers were planning to seize the officers at Fort George, and desert to the United States, he made a surprise visit, arrested the ringleaders, one by one, and sent them to Quebec for courts-martial. Seven were executed.

Brock counted on the British Army to defend Canada, but he also improved the training of the Militia, the civilian force recruited locally.

He counted more on the help of Chief Tecumseh and the Shawnee Indians, whom he believed were extremely valuable in the defence of Canada. They were now refugees from American soil where terror attacks on their villages had built up extreme hatred for Americans.

Brock also organized a marine presence on Lake Ontario.

He had for years requested to return to Europe to join the fight against Napoleon. His request was approved. But with the outbreak of the War of 1812 he decided his duty was to remain and supervise the defence of Upper Canada.

Fabulous Partners!

For all his talent as an artist, JD Kelly, left as a young man, knew there were some artists who were better at painting some things than he was - no we don't mean the Group of Seven.

Oh, they were OK, if you needed some sort of a rough impression of a tree, or a slough, you know, where the paint was all mushed up and heaped in swirls... like mildewed pudding at a half-way house.

JD meant serious painting.

And he meant Art Hider left.

AH Hider was one of the Fab Five of Canada's premier historical and illustrative artists, who were painting at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, including Arthur Heming, CW Jefferys, and Owen Staples..

Art's passion was painting horses, so much so that, around 1900, it was widely accepted that no one in Canada - or anywhere else that mattered - could do it better. Below Art Hider's Montcalm on a unique Canadian breed of horse.

It is a measure of the man, that JD Kelly, a superior painter in his own right - even of horses - would not only acknowledge that Art was a better artist in some areas, but would actually invite him to paint the major horse figures on his contract work!

What other artist would allow another to meddle in his artistic creations? Would Henry Moore allow someone else to jackhammer a hole into one of his rocks without feeling his vision as an artist severely compromised?

Would Joyce Wieland trust someone else to paste a scrap on one of her raggy doilies without worrying herself sick that it wasn't crooked enough, disheveled enough, or - let's admit it - awful enough?

And what chance is there that AY Jackson would ask Alex Colville to paint an approaching train engine racing into the midst of one of his wavy fields? Why the rumble might just topple one of his wobbly barns...

But God made JD Kelly out of finer clay...

On one of his most famous commissions, General Brock, he asked Art Hider to paint the general's horse, Alfred. And what a fabulous prancing steed he is! Even Alfred seems enormously pleased to have been painted by the best in the business...

JD could have asked Art to paint, play mum, and pay him off, and take credit for all the work, without anyone else ever knowing. It's done all the time. Why publicize a competing artist in the eyes of a client? Next time the contract may go to him!

But that also was not JD's style. Instead he asked Art to sign the painting as well. And he asked him to do it again on other commissions.

JD Kelly and Art Hider; two gentlemen from another age. And did we mention, they were equally fine painters too...

We will not see their like again...

Luckily they left a fabulous legacy of fine works of art they created all designed for "Keeping Canadians in Touch With Canada."

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
The Quebec Tercentenary, 1908 - JD Kelly & AH Hider
Orig. print - Size - 51 x 81 cm
Found - Cookstown, ON

Simply Fabulous! Another fine collaborative work by JD Kelly and Art Hider, featuring the march past at the Quebec Tercentenary Celebration, marking the 300th anniversary of the founding of Quebec by Champlain in 1908.

It was a huge event for which the Prince of Wales - he was only two years away from being crowned George V - was invited over as Guest of Honour.

Staged on the Heights of Quebec, near the battlefield of the Plains of Abraham, it featured thousands of performers, in period costumes, reenacting pantomimes celebrating the achievements of the French and English cultures in the creation of Canada.

Once again JD Kelly invited Art Hider to go to work on the horses. And Art did, with a relish.

Taking the salute, was the Prince of Wales - he would be King George V in three more years - but Earl Grey, the Governor-General of Canada, got the best horse from Art Hider.

And once again, JD asked him to sign off on the work, proud to associate his name with a fellow painter whom he admired.

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