The Paul Kane Project





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Published on Mar 26, 2013

A collaboration between the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Toronto, and Queen's University, Kingston, this research project has photographed in the infrared spectrum the Paul Kane collection of oil paintings housed at the ROM. The photographs allow for a glimpse a few microns below the oil surface to reveal graphite sketching and underdrawings that Paul Kane initially set down, as well as overpainting. The process enables us to "witness" the artist's compositional thinking, hesitations, and alterations that were part of the evolutionary process in developing the final studio image.

Over the years 1845--1848, Paul Kane followed the fur-trade routes from Toronto to the Pacific Ocean and sketched landscapes and scenes of Native life. He returned to Toronto with more than 600 sketches and then for the next eight years—using his sketches for inspiration and direction—he developed a cycle of oil canvases that represents his formal record of mid-19th century Native life and landscape.

An exhibition with catalogue, opening in the spring of 2014 as part of the ROM's centennial celebrations, will show a selection of Paul Kane's paintings side-by-side with 1:1 reproduction prints of the infrared photographs. Museum visitors will see for themselves Paul Kane's thinking processes when moving from his field sketches to his oil-on-canvas studio compositions


Paul Kane paintings housed at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada were also photographed.

The project team:
Kenneth R. Lister, Assistant Curator of Anthropology, Royal Ontario Museum - Project Coordinator
Heidi Sobol, Senior Conservator-Paintings, Conservation, Royal Ontario Museum - Project Coordinator
George Bevan, Assistant Professor, Departments of Classics and Art Conservation, Queen's University - Project Coordinator
Ian Longo, Undergraduate Student, Queen's University - Director of Photography, Imaging Editor and Catologue Development
Michael Fergusson, Masters Student, Queen's University - Photography Consultant, Videographer

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