Painting History: Insights into Quetico Provincial Park’s Fur Trade Past (Quetico Superior Foundation)

Wilderness News (Newsletter of the Quetico Superior Foundation) – In 2006, Quetico Provincial Park’s French River proved impassable by kayak—so Ken Lister crawled upriver through the slippery, overgrown underbrush. His destination? French River Rapids. As assistant curator of anthropology at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Lister suspected that an oil painting of the same name by Canadian artist Paul Kane (1810-1871) portrayed the rapids. If correct, he would disprove widely held notions about the painting’s origins as a river flowing into Georgian Bay, and possibly discover a new understanding of the fur trade. He was, and he did …

“I wanted to know, when we look at a Paul Kane sketch, can we assume we’re looking at what he saw?” said Lister. If the answer was yes, then Kane’s work could be used to identify real-world sites critical to the fur trade. So when Lister arrived at French River Rapids and found that the placement of rocks in the water and a crack in a giant rock wall matched the sketch exactly, it was worth the arduous upriver scramble.

Link to source (PDF)

Other stories in Fall 2009 Newsletter:

  • “Wilderness News Profile: Paul Schurke” (By Alissa Johnson).
  • “Canoe the Heart of the Continent: Centennial Canoe Voyage” (By Alissa Johnson).
  • Book Review: “Our Neck of the Woods” (Daniel J. Philippon, ed.).
  • And more …

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