Canadian art is diverse and multidimensional. It ranges from the crafts of native Indian tribes to the revolutionary contemporary paintings and installations. Many Canadian museums and art galleries organize exhibitions, helping the public to get closer to the nature of art and learn more about different artists. This paper is devoted to the exhibition of Hind’s paintings and drawing held in The Rooms in St. John’s. The paper focuses on the role of this painter in the Canadian art, the peculiarities of the exhibition and the way the artist’s oeuvre was presented in the exhibition catalogue issued by the gallery. Hind’s works are of a crucial importance for the Canadians, as they help to understand how the nature and culture have been perceived in the nineteenth century.
The oeuvre of William George Richardson Hind is the center of the exhibition titled Defiant beauty: William Hind in the Labrador Peninsula. This exhibition was open for around a month from September 14 to November 10, 2007. Although Hind was born in Europe and probably he received his artistic training there, he spent most of his time in Canada and was deeply interested in the culture of this country. The focus of the exhibition is the drawings, oil paintings, sketches and watercolors of Hind when he accompanied his brother in the exploration expedition to the Moisie River that is now the territory of Quebec. Hind created his works due to a variety of reasons, but the most important were to provide some documental fixation of the landscapes the expedition was examining and to convey the beauty of the land where they travelled. Hind was also very interested in portraying the local population, so his works were of both artistic and ethnographic value. Hind’s oeuvre occupies an important place in the history of Canadian art. It reflects the connection of the nineteenth-century Canadian art and strong European traditions. At the same time, Hind manages to catch unique Canadian coloring and atmosphere that are present in all his works.
The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery that is often called simply The Rooms is located in a middle-sized Canadian city of St. John’s with more than 200 thousand inhabitants. The Rooms as a local cultural facility is relatively new as they opened only in 2005, but the history of the place where this gallery is located is rather old (The Rooms, n. d.). In earlier times, the inhabitants of the city used it sort out their sea catch, so it is traditionally a venue that was aimed for people’s gatherings. This function of The Rooms is still present, but the purpose now is to host various exhibitions and lectures connected with Canadian art. The average number of exhibitions per year in this art gallery is around 15 (The Rooms, n. d.). This cultural facility is very important for the development of arts in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is also perfectly integrated into the pan-Canadian cultural life as many of the exhibitions presented here are travelling and are shown all over Canada. Many of the activities organized by The Rooms are outdoor events, so the art gallery and the museum try to get people closer to the nature not only metaphorically, as in case of Hind’s exhibition, but also literally.
The catalogue issued by The Rooms concerning this exhibition is aimed at reflecting the multidimensional oeuvre of William Hind. It contains much information both about the exhibitions itself, including the history of collecting all those works in one place that was rather difficult, and the works created by the artist. The catalogue focuses on the way Hind represented and portrayed the Canadian nature and landscapes. Every drawing or watercolor has a detailed description that involves both the information about the place on the Labrador Peninsula painted by the artist and the analysis of the artistic methods and techniques. As the expedition is aimed at creating the accurate cartographic representation of the present-day Quebec, Hind’s drawings are very realistic and do not allow the imagination of the artist to introduce many significant changes into the image. However, the catalogue draws attention of the audience that Hind’s drawings also tell much about the spirit of the places the expedition visited. In addition, the catalogue offers a lot of useful information about the book that Hind published after his expedition to the Moisie River. This book is very significant for the history of Canada as it is in fact the first visual representation of the Labrador Peninsula’s nature and population. This book was also circulated in Europe, helping the Europeans to enlarge their knowledge about the Canadian territories. This exhibition organized at St. John’s is of great importance to the local population, since Hind depicts the places that are at the heart of the social development of these territories. He also pays much attention to the native population of the Labrador Peninsula who are the ancestors of the people living in Labrador and Newfoundland nowadays. Therefore, this exhibition can be interpreted as a key to understanding the cultural and ethnic heritage of Canada.
The exhibition was warmly welcomed by the public and had many positive reviews. The Ottawa Citizen quotes the curator of this exhibition Gignac, “William Hind has the remarkable distinction of being the first Canadian artist to have painted images of our country from sea to sea” (The Ottawa Citizen, 2007). This aspect of Hind’s oeuvre attracted many visitors to the exhibition, making it one of the most successful exhibitions in The Rooms.
To conclude, Defiant beauty: William Hind in the Labrador Peninsula is a bright example of the exhibition that perfectly connects the beauty of art and useful cultural and ethnographic information about the Labrador Peninsula and the people who lived there in the nineteenth century. The exhibition catalogue presents the oeuvre of the artist in close connection with the history of the places that are depicted in his drawings, watercolor and oil paintings. Hind’s works are thoroughly analyzed and arranged in the way that helps the audience understand the main ideas and messages the artist tries to communicate.