Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cornelius Krieghoff

Winter Landscape, Laval
oil on canvas
painting by Cornelius Krieghoff, 1862,
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872) portrayed in his paintings the reality of the Quebec of his time; the rustic country life and the primitive and rugged living conditions, which touched him in particular. In this nineteenth-century milieu, there was in Quebec as well as in English Canada and the United States an insatiable curiosity about rustic life, folklore and North American Indians. His paintings contain an element of humour and at times are little more than caricatures.

He was a Dutch-born Canadian painter. Born in Amsterdam, his boyhood was spent in Dusseldorf and Schweinfurt. At an early age he and a friend made the tour of Europe, supporting themselves by painting and making music. In 1837 he sailed for New York and enlisted for service in the Army against the Seminole Indians in Florida. He made sketches and canvases for the War Department during that campaign, and this first contact with Indians made a lasting impression on the artist.

Demobilized in 1840, he joined his family in Montreal. From 1841 to 1846 they lived in Rochester, New York, although he studied in Paris for a short time during this period and he also spent some time in Toronto promoting his work. He settled in Montreal in 1846. He quickly established himself as an artist in Montreal, thriving until the early 1850s when the poor economy affected the art market.  It is said that to survive he had to paint sign-boards and furniture as well as giving poorly paid painting lessons. He also tried to sell his paintings door to door. Fate was with him when a Quebec City businessman saw his paintings and was drawn to their picturesque subjects.  The businessman encouraged him to move to Quebec City, introducing him to the artistic community and the social life of the city. He attained his greatest artistic and financial success during his years in Quebec City. He left Quebec City in 1863 or 1864 for Europe, returning in 1867. He left Canada for the last time in late 1871, moving to Chicago where their daughter lived. He died in Chicago.