Memorable Manitobans: Paul Kane (1810-1871)
Born in Mallow, County Cork, Ireland on 16 September1810, the son of Michael Kane, his family came to York (now Toronto) in 1818 or 1819. He showed an early interest in art but lacked the financial backing to obtain training. He travelled extensively in the United States and Europe, returning to Canada in 1845. He married Harriet Clench of Cobourg in 1853, and there were four children. The same year he set out to visit the West to sketch the scenery and the Indian peoples but got no further than Sault Ste. Marie.
In 1846 he obtained a commission from Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, to paint a series of twelve paintings of Indian life and obtained passage with the Company’s spring brigade of canoes. He arrived at Fort Alexander on the Winnipeg River and later went to Fort Garry, making sketches of the Indians and their camps wherever he went. He is said to have visited Star Mound in southern Manitoba. He travelled up Lake Winnipeg to Norway House and ascended the Saskatchewan to Fort Carlton. From there he went by horseback to Fort Vancouver. In additional to his artistic works, Kane also wrote Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America (1859), distinguished for its sparse narrative. It was translated into numerous languages.
Kane died at Toronto on 20 February 1871. He is commemorated by Kane Avenue in Winnipeg. Twelve of his paintings went to the Legislature of Canada in Toronto and later were transferred to Ottawa. The largest number of his works is housed in the Royal Ontario Museum. The originals of Kane’s paintings are in Ottawa, Toronto, and Orange, Texas, but his collection of Indian artifacts is in the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 26 May 2013