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15.12.2014 admin
Canada's fish-rich Grand Banks of Newfoundland attracted fishermen from Britain, France, Portugal, and Spain, as early as the 15th century. This painting is perfect example of how JD deliberately seeks to subliminally educate the audience, all under the guise of a superb artistic presentation. Schooners racing past each other, off to chase the latest rumour on which part of the banks has just tied into a passing school. In the distant dories, with a few creative dabs of paint, JD has wonderfully captured the solitary preoccupation of the men, ignoring the passing commotion, hunched over in the boats, each working his own line.
And JD uses, to great educational effect, the pretence of the dory in the foreground, leaning over to bring in a fish.
Foreground, middle ground, background, and many other planes of interest in between shows JD Kelly, one of Canada's very finest artists, at his peak. The Discovery of Canada: It was the enormous richness of the Newfoundland fishery that led Europeans to discover and develop Canada in the first place. Into modern times, more than any other Canadians, the people of Canada's maritime provinces depended on the fishery to sustain and feed their families, to a degree approaching that of the hunting and gathering lifestyle of Canada's Aboriginal Peoples. JD Kelly painted this busy scene at the height of the economic boom on the fishing grounds. The Wealth of Our Seas: JD Kelly could never have believed that his title would not speak for all time. But today the Atlantic fishery has been all but destroyed, mostly by greedy politicians, ever on the lookout for momentary advantages to advance their careers, and so chronically unwilling to make the tough decisions of planning for the long run, until it was too late, and the lives of countless fishing families torn apart, their sole livelihood - for centuries - obliterated, and a heritage resource irretrievably squandered. Despite the havoc they left in their wake, at least the regional politicians managed to eke out a living for their families, with company directorships received from corporate friends, their government expense accounts, munificently indexed government pensions, and their many lucrative lobbying contracts spun their way from friends and associates in high places. JD's artistic technique, at this stage of creation, is evident in this fabulous picture, which is a mock-up for a later, final work. JD shows us the rude, one room cabin, made of stacked logs, chinked with mud, that was the first home in the wilderness for the refugees.
JD didn't want to waste time to do detail work on the faces of the background figures, saving that for a later version of this preliminary presentation. The woman and child are watering the goat, on which the family depended for fresh milk and cheese. Horses were no use for this kind of work, as they were too high-strung, prone to panic, and then break legs, amid stumps and roots. The ox heritage is still strong in the eastern parts of Canada, where the original Loyalists settled two hundred years ago.
Odd as it may seem to outsiders, Canadians name all their oxen, Bright and Lyon; the Americans name all theirs Babe and Blue.
So, over 200 years after their Revolutionary War forefathers split over a matter of political principle, their descendants are still fighting it out, albeit before cheering crowds, on a more gentlemanly playing field. The more peace-loving Americans, who had sought to find a calm refuge in the American Thirteen Colonies, didn't find it there. In the 1780s and 90s, by the thousands, the best of the American gene pool crossed the frontier into British owned Upper and Lower Canada, and into New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, leaving the war-loving members of their countrymen behind, to intermarry, and through time, to develop into a more virulent strain of the universally feared species Americanus Warribilis. JD painted fine portraits of the political refugee UELs - United Empire Loyalists, who wanted to remain loyal to Britain - arriving in Canada. In this fabulous painting he illustrates the hard life that awaited them; they had to begin all over again, from scratch.


They arrived in Canada with little but their clothes on their backs and the pots and pans they could stash in a wagon or small boat. Then they had to chop down the primeval forest to make a clearing to build a shelter for their families.
We get a wonderful feel for the artistry of JD Kelly, who, with a few judiciously applied strokes of gouache, gives us a strong personality, whose determination we can feel, in the eyes, the neck, the jaws, and those massive shoulders.
Another fine preliminary watercolour which JD once mocked-up to tell a story he though was worth telling. In the caption below the watercolour JD had typed up notes on the history of the plow in early Canada. JD Kelly shows the enormous amount of intellectual research that lay behind every painting he did. The watercolour may not have been used, or ever seen in public before, but JD was proud of this work. The hand is more shaky, now that he is in his eighties, but not the sense of private pride that made JD such a master at presenting, with such absolute authority, the power of pride in early Canadians. Here at Wolfe's Cove, the British General after whom it was named, landed his men, at night, to climb the heights and come in the city's back door, to fool an unsuspecting foe. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was fought on the flats on top and the French Regime of 150 years came to an end. Soon the British were building ships at the Cove, left, including the Royal William, in 1834, became the first ship to cross the Atlantic by steam alone. In subsequent years the Cove became a gigantic assembly basin where huge log rafts would gather from the interior, be taken apart, and the logs stuffed into the bow ports of sailing ships to be taken to England.
He has elegantly - but accurately - captured probably the most storied industrial site in Canadian history. The Royal William may herald the coming age of steam with engines of iron, but keeps the wooden hull of a sailing ship.
In the middle distance, are two sluggish, broad, and shallow-draught bateaux, which take cargo and passengers from the bigger ships inland through locks and smaller rivers.
A very nice touch is the construction of the birch bark canoe which, for millennia, was the only boat on the St.
And, as in so many of his prints, JD features Indians; he saw them as playing important and supporting roles in Canadian history.
Long before it became politically correct, JD Kelly featured multiculturalism in his works. Wonderfully distributed across the canvas are the fishing schooners that brought the fishermen to the fishing grounds, the dories, sent out by the mother ships to catch the fish with line and hook, all set off against a magnificent iceberg typical of those that drift down the Newfoundland coast in spring. Every part of the canvas shows another aspect of the way the fishery would operate if you were there to see it. Others on stand-by, hove-to, as the dory men unload their catch into the holds of the mother ship.
JD really want to tilt the boat to let the audience see what the insides of all the boats out there look like.
What member of the Group of Seven has ever painted anything so action laden, so completely marine-centred, and so replete with Canadian heritage significance? As fine or finer than anything David Blackwood ever did at his peak, is this superlative gouache JD Kelly painted of the historic Newfoundland fishery in its heyday.


The fishery was the founding industry of Canada, and for centuries would remain one of the main pillars that sustained economic life in Canada; it was also the mainstay of family life in the Atlantic provinces.
To begin with he made it large, so the story and the compositional elements, would be more striking.
These powerful plodding animals pulled the felled logs from the bush to the burning piles, with chains hooked to massive wooden yokes fitted around their necks.
Docile oxen were preferable for clearing fields; horses would be more useful once dirt roads and paths were built through the forest.
Many recreational teams of oxen are kept and trained for championship ox pulls which are held every summer, with Canadians competing against their neighbours, the Americans from Maine and New Hampshire. That way, it is explained to tourists from Toronto, when oxen are sold, or exchanged, it avoids the stress, for man and beast, of having to learn a new name. The pioneers, which JD painted so powerfully in this huge watercolour, are the original English settlers who flooded into Canada after the revolting Americans broke away from England in the 1780s, and tried to make the less revolting Americans feel unwelcome, by burning their homes and crops, leering at their womenfolk, and molesting their livestock. In the American colonies most had probably had frame houses, and barns and sheds to house their livestock, and cleared and tilled soil that grew crops. He wanted only to portray the hardships of pioneer life, and the genius it took to make it all work when all the odds were against you. After he built his home to assure shelter for the winter, he had to fell the trees to make fields. At some point, probably later in life, when he was sorting his files, he added his name in full, below his earlier - and younger - initials.
JD betrays his love affair with Canadian history in his hand-written title to this fabulous personal artist's proof.
But this is not just a simple boat building scene; it displays a history of boating on the St. In all his pictures he portrays them as knowledgeable and full of the same nobility with which he imbued the European Canadians he painted. It was quite dangerous when moving because there was a high risk of death by getting a disease of being shot.You must need many items to survive moving south. Even the giant flounder, as he breaks water, seems impressed by the genial Newfies who gaff him, and are about to boink out his brains.
JD Kelly's historic paintings always centred on people so he included a powerful foreground figure.
The single, mud-splattered chimney provided the only heat for the building, making it too hot at one end, and cold at the other. Today, some 200 years after oxen were at their peak of use it is not uncommon to come across ox yokes at country auctions. Lawrence: in the background, the sailing ships that for over 200 years called at Quebec, and would for another century. JD finished his face to convey the courage, determination, and the humanity, of the pioneer stock that built the foundations of Canada. The fire was always out long before dawn; more than a few babies were found frozen to death by morning.



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