LOT 127

1815 - 1872

Carting Snow, Montreal
oil on panel
signed and on verso titled and dated 1850 on the G. Blair Laing label
6 x 8 1/2 in, 15.2 x 21.6 cm

Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000 CAD

Sold for: $46,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Estate of Col. Grant-Smith, Quebec
G. Blair Laing Ltd., Toronto
Kenneth R. Thomson, Toronto
A.K. Prakash & Associates Inc., Toronto, 2004
Private Collection, Toronto, 2005

Cornelius Krieghoff first moved to Montreal in 1840, and that is where he began his career as an artist in earnest. He traveled to Paris in 1844, spending two years training under the direction of Michel-Martin Drölling, before returning to Montreal, where he would remain as a practising artist until settling in Quebec City in 1853. His production at this time was prodigious, and he was well received and well represented in the growing collections of the newly rising middle class and military men that made up his clientele. His paintings depict the moments of narrative drama or humour that characterized rural life, as well as portraits of the Indigenous merchants and trappers he encountered, set in the surrounding landscape. While the subjects of his works are often romanticized or typified, the details of his subjects were undeniably taken from authentic observation. In particular, Krieghoff excelled in portraying winter scenes. He paid close attention to the landscape transformed by cold and ice, as well as the clothing, labours and play of his subjects, to depict the sense of sublime hardship and wonder that resonated with his buyers.

This exceptional work is taken from this early period in Krieghoff’s professional development. The subject of the painting is a horse hauling a caged sleigh piled high with snow cleared after a storm, with a shovel protruding from the overflowing mound. The sturdy draft horse strains against the weight of its cargo, while a blue-coated habitant, armed with a switch and his mouth open calling a command, encourages it along. The frozen St. Lawrence has itself become a field of ice; a few scanty trees show that the scene is set on the southern shore of the river, across from Montreal. In the background, the skyline of the city and the distant ridge of Mont Royal form a thin horizon under a towering, darkened northern cloudscape—the passing recent storm, perhaps, or the threat of further snowfall.

European settlers in Canada soon realized that winters in Quebec were much harsher than the ones they were used to; the season was long and cold, punctuated by deep-freezes and frequent heavy snowfalls. The inhabitants of Montreal and Quebec City would find that the extreme weather winter brought posed a problem. With snowbanks that could reach the height of several metres, snow would need to be moved from the streets and walks of the rapidly developing cities in order for them to continue functioning. At this point in Montreal’s history, the only means of doing this was by hand and by horse. Snow removal was not done by a specialized public works department but by the city’s residents themselves, with civilians pitching in after a snowfall to clear the thoroughfares and sidewalks of snow and ice with whatever carts, shovels and pickaxes they had on hand.

In the background, Montreal itself is depicted as it would have looked in 1850. On the right is the dome and neoclassical pediment of the Bonsecours Market, the large public market that was completed and opened in 1847, only a few years before this work was produced; in 1849, it was briefly the site of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. Hidden behind the horse we see a few spires of the city’s churches—in particular, the two squared towers of the Notre-Dame Basilica, finished only a few years earlier. In depicting the city with the same observational detail as he did its inhabitants, Krieghoff represents a unified view of life in Quebec that is increasingly cosmopolitan and modern, while remaining grounded in a particularly regional sense of the early Canadian experience.

Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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