Friday, April 20, 2012

An Artist in the Wilds of Northern Canada

There was a time, between 1895 and into the twenties, when there was a huge demand for Canadian novels in Britain and the United States. The demand was met by Ernest Thompson Seton, Robert W. Service, Charles G.D. Roberts, William Alexander Fraser, Ralph Connor and the eccentric American author Oliver Curwood.

These authors painted a picture of Canada as a grim, inhospitable, frozen wasteland inhabited by hungry wolves, angry bears, savage Indians and treacherous half breeds. Many of the bestsellers were picked up by Hollywood who from 1907 onward produced 507 motion pictures with a Canadian background (see ‘Hollywood’s Canada’ by Pierre Berton, 1975). The movies were widely inaccurate and fostered a caricature image of Canada and its inhabitants that persists to this day.

In 1872 Sir William Francis Butler wrote ‘The Great Lone Land; A Narrative of Travel and Adventure in the North-west of America’ and the title stuck. The Rev. Egerton Ryerson wrote ‘Winter Adventures of Three Boys in the Great Lone Land’ (1899) and Frederick A.W. Gisborne wrote ‘The Great Lone Land’ (1912). Rudyard Kipling dubbed Canada ‘Our Lady of the Snows’ in a poem written in 1897.

At the turn of the century Arthur Heming (1870-1940) was the preeminent promoter of the idea of the empty Arctic wasteland to American readers of New York’s illustrated Metropolitan Magazine. Heming illustrated the works of the ‘Canadian Kipling’ W.A. Fraser as well as writing and illustrating his own winter romances ‘Spirit of the Lake’ and ‘The Drama of the Forests.’

I have previously posted short biographies of Arthur Heming and W.A. Fraser HERE.

‘An Artist in the Wilds of Northern Canada,’ by Arthur Heming, New York: The Metropolitan Magazine, Sept. 1905

‘Arthur Heming an Illustrator of Wild Animal Life,’ New York: The Metropolitan Magazine, Oct. 1903


  1. nice posting.. thanks for sharing..

  2. Those interested should look for the catalogue to Arthur Heming: Chronicler of the North published by Musuem London to accompany the touring exhibition in 2012 London; 2013 Florence Griswold Musuem CN; 2014 Confederation Centre of the Arts, PEI. Excellent essays by Getty, Stone, Grove, Gehmacher and Hopkins