Portraits Page 53.1 Great Canadian Portraits
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Paul Giovanni Wickson RCA - 1859 - 1922 - 2

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure How extremely fabulous to find the original for one of the most famous pictures to come out of Canada during the Boer War.

It's Paul Wickson's "The Last Farewell" depicting a Canadian trooper taking leave of a comrade's grave site before moving on, and going home, without him.

This is the pastel original, in its original frame and glass, where it was put by Paul Wickson himself in 1900.

Below is the print made from this work, after details were added: a grave - outlined in stones - and a little stone monument, with a wooden cross.

Both original and print were Paul Wickson's personal copies, which continued to hang in his house, in Paris, late into the 20th century.

Paul Wickson died in 1922. His family kept the house, and lots of his art, hanging inside. In 1950 the Wicksons sold the house, complete with much of his art still hanging there. Both original and print come from that collection.


Pastel - The Last Farewell - Paul Wickson, 1900
Orig. pastel - Image Size - 39 x 60 cm
Found - Paris, ON

Provenance - Paul Wickson
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure Paul Wickson's own print, still mounted in a period frame, with wavy glass, and cedar shake backboards.

To painters like Paul, retaining and hanging a litho of his work was just as important as displaying the original.

The mass produced print showed that his work was good enough to have a major newspaper select it as a supplement to its readers.

The print was destined to hang in countless homes, hotels, and bars across Canada, for decades to come.

Below you can see the changes made to make the picture more topical, and tying it to a pathetic scene of men at war.

It is apparent that the original is softer - always the case with pastels - than the print, to which contrast was increased to give it more definition.


Chromolithograph Print - The Last Farewell - Paul Wickson, 1900
Orig. litho - Image Size - cm
Found - Paris, ON

Provenance - Paul Wickson

 

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure 109 years after it was issued it is still possible to find original prints of the Last Farewell in frames at auctions. Most are in bad shape.

The Boer War was the first time Canada sent troops to fight in a foreign war.

It was a matter of great personal pride with many Anglophone Canadians.

They put these prints in gaudy frames. Especially in hotels or bars where talk of the war was a constant preoccupation because over 300 Canadian men and women would never return from Africa. Most died of disease.

This heavy, multi-part gesso frame is in good condition. But overall it is not as fabulous as the print above, which has the powerful provenance of having belonged to Paul Wickson himself.


Chromolithograph Print - The Last Farewell - Paul Wickson, 1900
Orig. plate - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - Eugene, OR
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure Paul Wickson's other famous Boer War print is the Bugler.

It features a magnificent horse and a bugler that bears a remarkable resemblance to Edwin McCormick who went to South Africa as a 14 year old with Lord Strathcona's Horse.

 

Go to Edwin McCormick

Chromolithograph Print - The Bugler - 1900
Orig. print - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - Montreal, PQ
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure The fabulous house where Paul Wickson lived in Paris, Ontario.

"Hamilton Place" was built in 1844 for Norman Hamilton, a miller and brewer, who was among many Americans who settled in Paris in the early 1800s.

They brought their architectural and building styles from their native United States.

The look is Classical Revival of the Doric style - so named because it uses the sturdy pillars used in the mainland Greek style of architecture making use of simple tops.

The building method, using cobblestone, is also an American import, brought to Paris by its master exponent, Levi Boughton, from Albany, New York, who built the house for Hamilton.

Paul Wickson married into this wealthy family. No starving artist's life for him...


Hamilton Place (Paul Wickson Home) - Paris, Ontario - 1844
Orig. site - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - Paris, ON

Paul Wickson's studio was the belvedere, the rooftop enclosure with all the windows, which was actually a large, well lit room. So The Last Farewell was painted inside.

The house itself, as you can tell, is dark, as all the windows are shaded by the envelopping veranda.

The windows of the second storey, called footlights because they are close to the floor, are even recessed high up under the veranda roof, so never get direct light at all.

 


The entrance way gives a good view of the essential elements of this style of house:

- use of Doric columns with simple capitals throughout,

- cobblestone construction of all the walls,

- the darkening veranda overhanging and enclosing all the main floor windows,

- the second storey footlights,

- the steps going up to an elevated main floor because the kitchen of the house was built underneath so cooking heat would rise to become warmth for the living quarters upstairs. The lower floor has windows out back.

The massive stone lintel, over the door has the date, 1844, in raised letters on it.

Cobblestone construction is found in about a dozen houses, and a church, in Paris. The stones were gathered from the Nith River below and artistically arranged in a bed of mortar.






 

 

 

 

The veranda was a popular addition to early 19th century Canadian houses, the idea being brought to Canada by decommissioned British army officers who copied the idea from their travels in India.

A good idea in India, where shade from the blistering sun was needed, in Canada, verandas brought too much shade on house interiors, and many were later removed.

The Regency cottages they built also included French doors - full-length, glazed doors acting as windows - to bring in all the light possible.

Perhaps these were originally used here as well, and later modified, for more privacy and better insulation in the cold winters. This may explain the lack of cobblestones under the window sill and the full length shutters, clearly not necessary to cover glass windows at the bottom that are now long gone.

 


Paul Wickson, though born in Toronto, spent most of his growing up years in England, where he acquired his artistic training, and his love of gardening.

He met the love of his life in England, and in his early 20s, went to Canada to marry her. He moved into her father's house and lived here for the rest of his life.


 

 

 

 






When not painting in the belvedere Paul would be found puttering about in his beloved gardens which surrounded the house.

It was while gardening that he suddenly dropped dead in September 2, 1922. He was only 62. Surely, too soon, but, for a gardner could there be a better ending...?

Below the grounds behind the house where Wickson could be found puttering about. Somewhere here, Paul lay down for the last time...

The picture is a Photoshop assembly of three single photographs to give a feel for the environment in which the artist's mind blossomed.


 
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