The original painting upon which the print is based is by Frances Anne Hopkins. She was a British artist married to Edward Martin Hopkins, secretary to the general superintendent of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which then operated a large network of trading posts along Canada’s bays, lakes and rivers in which Native Americans exchanged furs for manufactured goods. In the painting and the print, Frances is shown seated in the middle of the rear canoe next to her husband, sketching the scene. This lends verisimilitude to the image portrayed. Other persons shown in the same canoe include the standing paddler at the stern wearing an earring and having a scabbard hanging from his sash and a passenger in the boat with a patched shirt and a tin cup tied to his belt, who has paused to drink from a dish.
The painting was engraved into this large print by the renowned engraver of views and landscapes, Charles Mottram. The credit line on the print indicates erroneously that it was based on a painting by “E. Hopkins.” A reviewer in 1874 responded positively to the final version of the engraving, even if he mistook Canada for the United States. He also explained the relationship between its European and American publishers:
There is no New York house to which the lovers of the arts are so much indebted as Goupil’s, Fifth Avenue, now Knöedler’s. For nearly a quarter of a century the gallery of this establishment has always contained the best specimens of European and American art; frequently the originals, but almost invariably the best copies in the form of fine engravings. And we do not remember to have ever seen it exhibit a finer variety than it does at present…Goupil & Co. excel in producing fine engravings. In order that this may be understood it is necessary to bear in mind that the New York house is a branch of those in Paris and London, so that an engraving bearing the imprint of Goupil, or Knöedler, is no more to be regarded as an article of “home manufacture” than the standard book written and even printed in Europe, but bound, or perhaps reprinted in this country. Nor is this the less true, in most cases, when the subjects are American — a fact which we find most happily illustrated in the fine engraving entitled “Lake Superior — Canoes in a Fog.” The original painting is by Hopkins, but the engraving is by Mottram, one of the most eminent of contemporary English artists. The title is sufficiently suggestive of the design of the piece; it is, therefore, no slight praise to say that the design is successfully carried out. There is genuine poetry in those canoes, rendered more and more mysterious and weird in their appearance by the dense fog, as they lie motionless — as if only shadows themselves, on the placid, glassy surface of the noblest lake in the world.
The oil painting upon which this print was based, Canoes in a Fog, Lake Superior (1869), was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London and is now in the collection of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta, which also has one of the watercolor sketches for it. Other institutions that own the print include the Toronto Public Library and the Minnesota Historical Society.
Frances Anne Hopkins (née Beechey) was a British artist. She was the granddaughter of two artists, court portrait painter William Beechey and his wife Anne Beechey, and daughter of an Arctic explorer. Frances had already been taught to draw and paint when she married Edward Hopkins at the age of 20 and went with him to live in Canada for the next 12 years. During that time period, Frances accompanied her husband on a number of long canoe trips along the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fur trading routes, making watercolors and sketches that she turned into celebrated oil paintings, notably Canoes in a Fog, Lake Superior (1869). She typically included portrayals of herself in the canoeing scenes. One wonders if she did so to leave no doubt that the paintings were not flights of imagination but based on her eyewitness drawings, since participation in wilderness travels was highly unusual for an English woman of her era. After Hopkins and her husband returned to England in 1870, she continued to produce oils based on the canoeing expeditions. She exhibited at the Royal Academy until the year of her death in 1918. Today these paintings, studies and prints are valued as records of 19th-century North America. Her paintings of wilderness voyageurs are in the collections of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta, and the National Archives of Canada.
Charles Mottram was a British engraver, renowned for his fine prints after painters such as Rosa Bonheur, Holman Hunt, and especially Edwin Henry Landseer. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1861 until his death. He is best known in America for his bird’s-eye views of the harbors of New York (F. & G.W. Smith, New York: 1855) and of Boston (Smith Brothers & Co., New York: 1857) based on the original paintings by John William Hill (1807-1896).
Full publication information: “Painted by E. Hopkins. Engraved by Charles Mottram. Entered According to Act of Congress; In the Year 1873; By M. Knoedler & Co. in the Office of the Librarian of Copyright at Washington. Published BY M. Knoedler & Co. New York; Goupil & Co. Paris and 17, Southampton Street, Strand; London. Novr 1st 1873. Copyright Registered. Proof.”
Condition: An etching on chine applique or India paper laid on wove paper as issued. Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Professionally cleaned and deacidified with a few minor abrasions restored. Margins ample but Knoedler publication line, edge of lower margin, partly trimmed.
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 6, p. 245.
“Frances Anne Hopkins, Canoes in a Fog, Lake Superior.” Canadian Art History Wikispaces. 2013. http://canadianarthistory.wikispaces.com/Frances+Anne+Hopkins,+Canoes+in+a+Fog,+Lake+Superior+ (13 May 2013).
“Lake Superior (Ontario; 1864).” Toronto Public Library. 2013. http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDMDC-PICTURES-R-1406&R=DC-PICTURES-R-1406 (13 May 2013).
Sears, Edward I., ed. “Art VIII. The Aesthetics of Home.” The National Quarterly Review. 30:59, December 1874. New York: Edward I Sears. pp. 159-160. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=vPIRAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA160 (13 May 2013).
“The Canoes.” Canadian Museum of Civilization. 26 April 2010. http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/canoe/can07eng.shtml and http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/canoe/can10eng.shtml (13 May 2013).
“Up to 1914.” Glenbow Museum. 2013. http://www.glenbow.org/collections/art/1914.cfm (13 May 2013).