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Understanding Canadian History Essay Research Paper Art

Understanding Canadian History Essay, Research Paper

Art history contributes to our understanding of Canada’s history. Urban

history, art history, and material history documented events as they unfurled.

Demographic concentration, architecture, economics, and cultural aspects are

well documented in the above disciplines of history.

Art itself is about people and their expressions of hope and meaning. Their

impressions and thoughts are transported to their respective canvases. For the

most part, these forms of history are less biassed and they tell the story as it

actually was. A tour of the National Gallery showed that art comes in many

forms: landscape paintings, portraiture, carvings, sculptures, metal work,

among others. Viewing the types of artwork and when they were produced, showed

an evolution of various artists’ styles as well as an evolution in the Canadian

people. The early “aristocratic” settlers in Canada were mostly interested in

Dutch and European art and not Canadian landscape paintings. It was perhaps

living in the dreary cold land which discouraged them to hang a rendering of it

on their walls. In addition, early Canada had no actual “Canadian” artists of

any popularity. A new country would take years to produce such artisans.

Portraiture captured the essence of the early peoples, whether European or

Aboriginal. Clothing, tools, jewellery and muskets attested to the Canadian

lifestyle in the early days. Landscape art detailed the growth of civilisation

around the country. Development in housing, business, industry, and architecture

could be seen by comparing two paintings of the same area, though painted fifty

years apart. Count the church steeples in the paintings to find an increase in


religious persuasions, thus identifying the influx and diversity of the settlers.

The first settlers to Canada left behind many artefacts which help piece

together the trials and tribulations of early settlement. These materials show

a progress or evolution of a nation. The various possessions found in a young

Canada showed a very diverse country. Early Canada lacked the resources or the

tradesmen to produce materials for everyday use, such as furniture, precious

metals, cutlery, dolls, and other personal items. That is why many of the items

found in Canada are of European origin. It wasn’t until years later that many

trades were developed to self-sustain early settlers. For example, early glass

objects were crude in form and function. With advances in technology, came

clearer glass objects that could be mass-produced. Significant advancements in

technology can be noted in most all other materials also.

One could also see development and history though architecture. Although we

walk down the streets of Ottawa going about daily business, most of us are

usually unaware of our historical surroundings. The older unassuming buildings

on Sparks Street reveal intricate carvings in stone. Where did these carvings

come from? Numerous architectural wonders in the city of Ottawa attest to the

hardships and fortitude of the early nation builders. These are, however, not

mere architectural achievements. These buildings tell a story about the people,

sickness, employment and economics of the time. In fact, the Royal Canadian Mint

was a cholera quarantine hospital for those wishing to journey further


up or down the Ottawa river before it became the place where currency is

produced. The Rideau Canal, with its series of locks, was not constructed to

allow passage of jet skis and pleasure craft. It was built between 1826 and

1832 to transport thousands of soldiers and war supplies, for the then-thought

invasion of the United States. This massive feat of construction cost an

exorbitant amount of money and required thousands of skilled men to finish it.

After the construction of the Rideau Canal project, these same men found

themselves building many of the stone buildings on Sparks Street and elsewhere.

Their talents can be seen leering down from the heights in the form of gargoyles.

Venture into some of these buildings to find plaques honouring the memories of

Ottawa’s founding fathers and their contributions to the country. Even the

city’s location also tells a story. Ottawa was built on the Ottawa river at a

time when the only practical method of transportation was by boat. Hundreds of

years ago, the principle construction materials were lumber and stone. The

stone was quarried on the shores of the Ottawa river and the lumber was cut and

floated down river for milling, all for ease of transportation and the lowest cost.

For a nation to have an identity, it must have a history. Urban, art, and

material histories all lend hands to understanding Canadian history by providing

a chronology of sorts. The records of our past don’t always have to be written

and documented. For the most part, history surrounds us in the form of urban,

art, and material histories and will continue to do so for the years to come.


Understanding Canadian History

Essay #2