Visibly Canadian

Visibly Canadian: Imaging Collective Identities in the Canadas, 1820-1910

Karen Stanworth
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Visibly Canadian
    Book Description:

    Spectacular, scientific, and educational cultural practices were used to establish and define public identities in the British colonies of nineteenth-century Canada. In Visibly Canadian, Karen Stanworth argues that visual representations were the era's primary mode of expressing identity, and shows how the citizenry of Quebec and Ontario was - or was not - represented in the visual culture of the time. Through nine case studies, each representing key moments of identity formation and contestation, Stanworth investigates how a broad range of cultural phenomena, from fine arts to institutional histories to public spectacles, were used to order, resist, and articulate identities within specific social and economic contexts. The negotiation and planning underpinning civic culture are evident in rare moments of compromise such as the surprising proposal from the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society to merge their annual parade with the celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Equally astounding is the scale of nineteenth-century public spectacles; reenactments of Victorian scenes of war often attracted crowds of upwards of 10,000 people. Illustrated with over fifty images, many unseen for over a century, Visibly Canadian establishes the extraordinary significance of artwork and public spectacles in cutting across language, religion, and class to tell stories of nationhood, belonging, and difference.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9693-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Visual Culture: Practices and Methodologies
    (pp. 3-22)

    Canadian? For at least two hundred years, Canadians have been obsessed with who they are. My use of “obsessed” is meant to draw attention to the extensive examination – particularly by inhabitants of Quebec and Ontario – of Canadian identity since the early nineteenth century.⁵ Over the last two hundred years, this obsession has been worked out in part in the visual realm, particularly in the arts. Many readers are familiar with the Group of Seven, Northrop Frye, and Margaret Atwood, whose art and literature painted, theorized, and narrated stories of Canadian identity in the twentieth century.⁶ InVisibly Canadian,...

    (pp. None)
  6. PART ONE Visibly Ordered:: Mid-Nineteenth-Century Museums and the Colonial Order of Things
    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 23-30)

      The three chapters in this section look at the ways in which the visual representation of collective identities in the colonial Canadas is manifested through museum and archiving practices. I argue that these activities served as controlling mechanisms for the recently displaced British and other European arrivals. New immigrants to the Canadas in the early nineteenth century found an unfamiliar environment that they immediately sought to “know.” This knowledge was rapidly processed in a variety of ways, often through some form of visual catalogue, topographical drawings, mapping, collections, or guides. These modes of visual culture were used to index the...

    • CHAPTER ONE A Picture of Quebec: Artifacts of Civilization
      (pp. 31-64)

      Imagine a time and place so stimulating, so unlike anything you know, that you would need a guide not only to physically direct you but also to keep you emotionally on track. “The strange and remarkable contrast” presented by Quebec City was perceived as capable of exciting “curiosity and interest” by colonial administrators such as Governor-in-Chief of British North America Lord Dalhousie and visitors alike.¹ The attempts to document, map, and collect the artifacts of the British colony are the focus of this chapter. The case study investigates early attempts to describe and contain the French colonial residents and to...

    • CHAPTER TWO A Laboratory of Learning: The Educational Museum, Visual Culture, and Citizenship in Canada West
      (pp. 65-102)

      Egerton Ryerson set out with no small task in mind when he and his peers conceptualized a broad-based educational system in Canada West during the 1840s and ’50s. Oft-quoted passages from his letters to the various stakeholders in the politics of education and culture in the Canadas reveal Ryerson’s goal to have every child exposed to a practical education that would produce “good” members of a universal society. You could say that Ryerson had been on a similar crusade most of his life. After he was kicked out of the family home for joining the Methodist Episcopal Church at the...

    • CHAPTER THREE Whose Lessons? Subjects of the Colonial Archive
      (pp. 103-138)

      The over forty-year span between the comments about patriotism made by Thomas D’Arcy McGee in 1865¹ and those of the editor of theGlobein 1907² is a period sandwiched between colonial rule and self-governing dominion – one in which the citizens of the newly created provinces sought to negotiate a balance between national and colonial identities.³ On the eve of Confederation, D’Arcy McGee observed that patriotism would increase along with the recording of the nation’s history. This chapter focuses on how Canada’s history was written not only in documentary form but also in the visual culture of the nascent...

  7. PART TWO Visibly Public:: Spectacularizing Social Identities in Victorian Canada
    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 139-144)

      When Leigh Gregor claimed the label “Canadians” for all people living in Canada in 1898,¹ he argued that a new Canadian patriotism was in the process of being realized.Canadien, he argued, should no longer apply just to the descendants of the seventeenth-century French settlers. A professor at McGill University, Gregor brought an authoritative form of learnedness to his 1898 lecture presented to the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. Talking to a room of English-speaking peers, he laid claim to a term that had been viewed negatively by British colonists for eight decades. He argued that there were three...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Staging a Siege: Or, the Cultural Politics of Re-Producing Modern History
      (pp. 145-184)

      In the late 1800s, the Dominion and Industrial Fair of Toronto was probably the largest annual fair in North America. Over the course of only sixteen days, 102,000 people visited the first exhibition in 1879.¹ By 1887, 210,000 attended the twelve-day fair – an audience almost twice the resident population of Toronto at the time.² The evening grandstand spectacle – featuring extensive fireworks and various presentations – drew an audience of 10,000 to 20,000 nightly. Fairgoers timed their visits so that they could review the various fairground attractions before settling in for the evening’s grandstand events. The fair was becoming...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Bilingual Memories: A Souvenir of the Diamond Jubilee in Quebec City, 1897
      (pp. 185-220)

      Royal subjects around the world celebrated Queen Victoria’s sixty-year reign with an orchestrated fervour that solidified the queen’s identificationasthe nation, not justofthe nation.¹ The success across the Commonwealth of the jubilee marking her fiftieth year on the throne, with its global performance of queen and empire, had set the stage for an even grander explosion of fealty from British subjects around the world. The overwhelming scale of these festivities, their global expanse, and the huge expenses incurred all point to an enormous mobilization of resources alongside public and personal energies throughout the empire. Although there were...

    • CHAPTER SIX “The Body Corporate Gets a Wriggle On”: The Civic Parade in Montreal, 1897
      (pp. 221-258)

      On the morning of 21 June 1897, the editor ofThe Gazettereported that nearly 100,000 people were “jubilating” on the streets of Montreal.¹ Women in fancy hats and men in bowlers chatted among themselves and pointed out the arrival of each section of the civic parade that was organized in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The reporter’s use of “jubilating” catches the sense of participation of the crowd, as opposed to the passivity often associated with parade spectators. Seemingly, the overcast day and occasional shower did not dampen the general enthusiasm. An illustration inLa Pressetwo days...

  8. PART THREE Visibly Related:: Small Group Portraiture and the Display of the Social Self
    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 259-263)

      Small group portraiture invites reflection on how notions of self, identity, and self-representation are inevitably conjoined to a larger sphere of location. The distinction between self and identity draws attention to the difference between what constitutes the singular person and what informs and forms a relationship of identity between self and other. Sociology and philosophy often make a distinction between these concepts in order to focus on the individual characteristics or inherent aspects of self. Furthermore, various kinds of identity studies often see identity as an expression of belonging, such as national, ethnic, or gender identity. I am using the...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN “Born with a Silver Spoon and Fork”: Photographic Testimonies of Acculturation, Montreal, 1873
      (pp. 265-299)

      Armed with “a silver spoon and fork,” “simple dress for various seasons,” and pocket money to pay for her contribution to the Sunday collection at St Andrew’s Church (Presbyterian), Minnie Gibbs arrived for the winter term at Bute House in 1873 well prepared. Aware of her privilege and full of plans, she knew the pursuit of “higher purposes” had its own costs. Courses in language, literature, singing, and gymnastics would “cultivate her physical, intellectual, and moral development.”¹ Extra fees for advanced painting and music classes were affordable, but not for everyone in the class. She knew a couple of the...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Family Portrait: Portrait of the Artist as a Successful Man
      (pp. 301-331)

      Intérieur: scène familiale, painted by Ludger Larose in 1907, depicts a young family engaged in various activities in their parlour, or salon as it would have been known in Quebec (figure 8.1).¹ A small girl is receiving a piano lesson from a young woman whom we assume to be her mother. Meanwhile two young boys are reading, one alone, one with an older male, presumably his father. This apparently innocuous example of group portraiture depicts a seemingly ordinary scene of family life. It is the unproblematic product of a lesser-known Quebec artist. Or is it? Would Thackeray condemn the children’s...

    • CHAPTER NINE Visual Rhetoric: Storytelling, History, and Identity in a Portrait of Three Friends
      (pp. 333-354)

      There are probably hundreds of paintings in stately homes, small galleries, and large museums that are more or less similar to aPortrait of Three Friends(1773), by British artist William Pars (figure 9.1). Depicting three young Englishmen identified as “Archdeacon Andrew, John Cholwich, and John Graves Simcoe,” the group portrait of three friends can be found in the art collection of the University of Toronto. The first time I saw the painting, in 1996, it was hanging above the fireplace in the meeting room of the president of the university. The portrait dominated the informal seating arranged in the...

    (pp. 355-358)

    Sounds of a tuba, trumpet, and a distant drumbeat precede voices straining to sing heartily. Flags on hand-held poles come into view moments before the parade reaches the crossroad. Colour – lots of red – impresses the senses. Sixty thousand spectators crowd every inch of space between the street and buildings. The crowd cheers and sings along. Held about one hundred years after the queen’s jubilee parade that I describe in Montreal in 1897, the Portugal Day parade wound its way to Trinity Bellwoods Park in downtown Toronto. The press reports described the costumed cavalcade, floats, and marching bands of...

    (pp. 359-362)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 363-416)
    (pp. 417-448)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 449-458)