Canadian Artists: Cornelius Krieghoff (1815 – 1872)

Last week, I took a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

I went on a Wednesday night, where after 6pm, they have free entry. This was my second visit. My first visit had been a Highlights Tour (which took all evening, and left no time to mosey around alone), but this time, I wanted to take a closer look at the Canadian art.

As I walked around, I fell in love with a 19th century Canadian painter called Cornelius Kreighoff.

Cornelius Krieghoff (1815 – 1872)

As you can tell by his surname, he is not really Canadian. Although he did become one eventually, and is now acclaimed as one of the greatest Canadian artists of all time.

I thought he was German, while in fact, he hailed from Amsterdam.¹ It is unclear as to why he moved to the Great North. During his lifetime, many people would have immigrated from their home country to Canada. From my brief research, it seems he bounced around a lot between North America and the States over the course of his life.

Kreifghoff is most famous for his winter scenes. It either involves people do an activity that was popular at the time; be it finding food, partying, or a winter sport, or on transportation, If you look at them all, they will feature some sort of transportation, like sledding or horse and carts, or canoeing.

In the beautiful setting of nature, of course.

The Trapper’s Return

The one below – Early Morning – is my favourite of all. I was taken by, how if you look closely, there are so many facial expressions to examine. Such detail; such expressions!

You can also conjure up a story yourself from all the movement that is in there. A man dances drunkenly on the patio with ale in his hand; a beautiful woman looks at a man, who is sitting on the steps with his head in his hands; another man runs over to the overturned toboggan with his faithful dog by his side.

I love the fact, even then during the colder times, people were still partying in the snow until the early hours of the morning!

Cornelius Krieghoff. Breaking up of a Country Ball in Canada, Early Morning (The Morning after a Merrymaking in Lower Canada). Source: Art Gallery of Ontario.

One aspect I find touching is that he even befriended the Natives, and painted them as well.

I did see one beautiful portrait at the AGO (yes, he did portraits too), but I cannot find a link to place it here. However, I add the one below, which I also saw at the Gallery:

Indian Hunter on Snowshoes. Source: Wikimedia

I loved all of his work with the three ones I show here being my favourites thus far. He’s special. Another thing I loved is that Kreighoff’s work is almost biographical. They demonstrate how Canada was during the 19th century, what people did with their time, what activities they liked, and what clothes they wore. As a history lover, this is excellent evidence for me.

There were so many paintings at the AGO that belonged to him, which makes me believe he was a full-time artist, and didn’t have another day job to attend to. I’m now on the lookout to find postcards of them, so I can use them as Christmas cards this year. I even want a painting of his on my wall!

Move over, Van Gogh! Kreighoff has taken your place!

¹ National Gallery of Canada, Cornelius Krieghoff, [accessed 6 October 2015].

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