Frederick A. Verner
Watercolour on paper
31.5 x 65.0 cm
Gift of Stephanie McCandless Reford, LaHave, Nova Scotia, 2008
Born in Sheridan, Ontario in 1836, Verner was one of the few leading Canadian painters of that century actually born in Canada. An avid photographer, Verner used the camera to earn a living as well as to capture images and painting motifs that he used throughout his painting career. He was a founding member of the Ontario Society of Artists and the first Canadian member of the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists.
Strongly influenced by both the art and the person of Paul Kane – a retired artist living in Toronto who specialized in western and First Nations themes – Verner focused on painting harmonious scenes of people and nature with a special focus on western and First Nations themes. Frederick went on several painting expeditions to western Canada between 1870 and 1892 – a time when the west was still largely unsettled by European immigrants.
While the AGNS holds two watercolours by Verner, both are from a much later time and, while excellent examples of his works, do not directly relate to his well-known period of romantic western Canadian and First Nations works. This and four other works by Verner in this donation from Stephanie McCandless Reford are from a substantially earlier time and includes some of these romantic images for which he was known.
Misty Morning (1885) is a watercolour that depicts what Verner is truly known for and the first example of this kind for the AGNS collection – his romantic imagery of Canadian First Nations. Misty Morning is a more conventional romantic image of Canadian First Nations, paddling in their canoes and wearing a combination of traditional and European dress. The grouping of First Nations and canoeing was a favourite for Verner. In many ways these watercolours are precursors to the photographs that Edward Curtis and others later produced, documenting the “vanishing Indian”. Misty Morning in particular calls this sentiment to mind, with the leading canoe – the one with the more traditional figure - disappearing into the fog, the second canoe close behind. It is a mixture of idealistic vision and realistic details, with soft atmospheric qualities and gentle light washing over the detailed markings on the canoes and the paddles.
The Gallery will now be able to regularly exhibit Verner as part of the story of early Canadian art with the addition of the pieces in the Reford donation.
Shannon Parker, Curator of Collections