Understanding Canadian History
Art history contributes to our understanding of Canada's history. Urban
history, art history, and material history documented events as they unfurled.
Demographic concentration, architecture, economics, and cultural aspects are
well documented in the above disciplines of history.
Art itself is about people and their expressions of hope and meaning. Their
impressions and thoughts are transported to their respective canvases. For the
most part, these forms of history are less biassed and they tell the story as it
actually was. A tour of the National Gallery showed that art comes in many
forms: landscape paintings, portraiture, carvings, sculptures, metal work,
among others. Viewing the types of artwork and when they were produced, showed
an evolution of various artists' styles as well as an evolution in the Canadian
people. The early "aristocratic" settlers in Canada were mostly interested in
Dutch and European art and not Canadian landscape paintings. It was perhaps
living in the dreary cold land which discouraged them to hang a rendering of it
on their walls. In addition, early Canada had no actual "Canadian" artists of
any popularity. A new country would take years to produce such artisans.
Portraiture captured the essence of the early peoples, whether European or
Aboriginal. Clothing, tools, jewellery and muskets attested to the Canadian
lifestyle in the early days. Landscape art detailed the growth of civilisation
around the country. Development in housing, business, industry, and architecture
could be seen by comparing two paintings of the same area, though painted fifty
years apart. Count the church steeples in the paintings to find an increase in
religious persuasions, thus identifying the influx and diversity of the settlers.
The first settlers to Canada left behind many artefacts which help piece
together the trials and tribulations of early settlement. These materials show
a progress or evolution of a nation. The various possessions found in a young
Canada showed a very diverse country. Early Canada lacked the resources or the
tradesmen to produce materials for everyday use, such as furniture, precious
metals, cutlery, dolls, and other personal items. That is why many of the items
found in Canada are of European origin. It wasn't until years later that many
trades were developed to self-sustain early settlers. For example, early glass
objects were crude in form and function. With advances in...