Historical Watercolours: The Canadian Salon

By: Dara Vandor

Watercolours by William Hind: The Story of Louis and His Wife

Lot 54 – WILLIAM GEORGE RICHARDSON HIND, LOUIS’ WIFE

Waddington’s is pleased to offer a collection of historical watercolours by artists including William Henry Edward Napier, William George Richardson Hind, Major Henry Samuel Davis, Alfred Worsley Holdstock, John Herbert Caddy, Reverend Vincent Clementi, William Armstrong and Edward Scrope Shrapnel in our The Canadian Salon auction, online from October 17-22. These exceptional examples come from the Estate of The Honorary Chief Spotted Eagle “Kis-Sti-Pi-Pi-Tah” of Toronto.

Chief Spotted Eagle was born under the name of John M. Rogers. In 1963, Rogers was appointed an Honorary member of the Peigan Band of Blackfoot Indian Confederacy under the name of Honorary Chief Spotted Eagle “Kis-Sti-Pi-Pi-Tah.” A successful businessman, Rogers made a fortune in promoting mining stocks. An avid collector of all things Indigenous, Rogers built a log cabin solely for the purpose of showcasing his vast collection of Plains and Iroquois artifacts alongside the collection of watercolours included in this auction.

The collection includes watercolours acquired at two of the earliest major auctions of Canadian Art held in Canada—one in 1967 and another in 1974. The 1967 auction was Sotheby’s debut auction in Canada, and was where Rogers purchased the extremely rare William George Richardson Hind paintingsThe watercolours came from the Estate of the Late Robert W. Redford, Esq., of Montreal, and were showcased in their own separate catalogue due to their importance. The catalogue advertised the suite as being “flown from London (UK) by Air Canada” and that their showing was their “first time outside Britain.”

About William & Henry Hind

William Hind was born in Nottingham, England in 1833, and appears to have followed his older brother Henry Youle Hind to Canada in 1852. After a brief sojourn in England, where he studied the work of Millais, Hunt and Rossetti, Hind returned to Canada to join his brother’s expedition to the Moisie River in Quebec in 1861. On this trip, the artist produced over 100 watercolours, sketches and oil studies of the landscape and Indigenous subjects. His brother Henry published a book in 1863 detailing the expedition, entitled Explorations in the Interior of the Labrador Peninsula: The Country of the Montagnais and Nasquapee Indians. The full text is available through this link, and a few of Hind’s images have been included to accompany it.

Louis and his wife

Three of the watercolours consigned to Waddington’s for this auction provide a brief snapshot into a period that the Hind brothers spent with Louis, an Innu (referred to by French colonists as Montagnais) man and his wife. The Innu inhabit the northeastern portion of what is now the province of Quebec, as well as some eastern portions of Labrador. Hunter-gatherers, the Innu relied on caribou, moose, deer, and small game for subsistence.

Lot 52 – WILLIAM GEORGE RICHARDSON HIND, SEAL HUNTING ON THE MOISIE

In the book, Henry describes Louis, a steersman hired for the expedition, as “a ‘character,’” “strong as a horse, laughs at everything, and cares for nothing…thoroughly capable of managing a canoe, but not fond of work or very sure with his gun…a valuable addition to our party.” Henry then recounts the story of Louis’ wife, as told to him by a Nova Scotia fisherman. Louis’ wife lived apart from Louis, outside of his lodge because she is ashamed of him. The Nova Scotia fisherman explained that a priest had visited the Innu a year prior in order to baptise, marry and hear confession from those wishing to uphold their Christian faith. As the priest was only briefly passing through the region and would not return for an entire year, there was a great haste to formalize arrangements. Louis quickly asked his future wife for her hand, and, caught up in the moment, she agreed. They were married on the spot.

Henry then tells the rest of the story (which, years later, was typewritten, excerpted and taped to the back of the corresponding watercolour):

Lot 53 – WILLIAM GEORGE RICHARDSON HIND, SEAL HUNTING ON THE MOISIE

“Two days after this wedding, Louis went out with his wife to hunt seals: she steered and he took the gun – the way these Indians do. Louis fired at the seals one after the other and missed them. His wife then turned the canoe in disgust to shore and stepped straight to her father’s lodge. After much bother, Louis prevailed upon her to come with him again to hunt, and give him a chance, so she agreed to go again, and on the following day she steered him close to a seal: he fired and missed. She brought him to another: he fired again, and missed a second time. She looked—so Louis told his people—just looked, said nothing; but that look made Louis nervous. She brought him to a third seal—close to it—he missed again.  She said nothing but paddled to shore and then ran to her father’s lodge. She says she will never live with him again.”

Henry describes Louis’ wife as “a handsome determined woman, lips full but tightly closed, a dark and intelligent eye which, when it met yours, rested upon you with a tranquil, self-possessed gaze. Her arms were folded beneath the shawl she drew tightly around her waist. Her hair was neatly bunched up, Montagnais [Innu] fashion, on each side of her face. She wore the picturesque Montagnais cap of crimson and black, ornamented with braid around the edges…she stood motionless, watching her sisters cutting up a seal, apparently paying no attention to their jeers and scoffs, which the interpreter near at hand said they were ‘throwing at Louis.’ Altogether, she seemed to be a very unfit like companion for the indolent and careless Louis.”

The vignette ends with Louis asking Henry for $15, which he receives and then passes on to his wife in a gesture of appeasement. His wife accepts the money, “but returned no answer, nor did she appear to be in the least degree softened by this well-meant attempt at reconciliation.”

Auction Information

We invite you to browse the exceptional collection of watercolours in our Canadian Salon auction, alongside nautical scenes, oils in the American style and outstanding Canadian landscape views. Another highlight is a group of three portraits, lot 32 and lot 33, from the estate of Montreal gallerist Jean Pierre Valentin.

The auction is offered online from October 17 to 22.  Previews are available by appointment only.

Should you have any questions, require additional photographs or condition reports, please do not hesitate to contact us at canadianart@waddingtons.ca.


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