coloured pencil and graphite
signed, dated 1885 and inscribed "Toronto, Ont."
sheet 20 ins x 31.5 ins; 50.8 cms x 80 cms
Maritime portraits are a fascinating and specialized genre. Often they are commissioned by a ship's proud owner or captain, at other times they are painted to commemorate a memorable or even heroic event associated with the vessel. We do not know why C.I Gibbons painted the Great Lakes schooner, the Maple Leaf, but we do know she was considered "the comeliest little schooner on Lake Ontario". Robert Shipley selected this painting to illustrate the cover of his 1991 publication Schooners.
Built in 1867, the Maple Leaf was used as a "stone hooker" grabbing stones from the bottom of Lake Ontario and hauling them to shore as building material for the foundations of a young Toronto. Richard Goldring, her Captain, was barely out of his teens when he first began to sail her, which he continued to do for many decades. The Maple Leaf and Goldring had a rich history together: He "brought her safely through the Great Gale of 1880 and brought her back to life after the Great Esplanade Fire of 1885."
The Maple Leaf remains a symbol of a time when skill, rigor, pluck, and hard work, with the promise of only modest rewards, were a matter of course for those who made their livelihood sailing the Lakes.
Robert B. Townsend, Tales from the Great Lakes, Dundurn Press, Toronto, page 82.
Robert Shipley, Schooners (Great Lake Album Series), Vanwell Pub Ltd., St. Catharines, 1991, cover for this lot, illustrated in colour.
Private Collection, Ontario
Department: Canadian Fine Art