SLEIGHS ON THE ICE BELOW THE CITADEL, QUEBEC CITY
titled to label verso
10 x 18.25 in — 25.4 x 46.4 cm
November 30, 2023
Born in England, John B. Wilkinson was active in the mid-19th century. Painting scenes of New England and in Quebec, Wilkinson was inspired by French Barbizon painting and the Hudson River School.
Until 1909, the St. Lawrence River would freeze solid, making the crossing between Lévis and Quebec City by boat impossible. This thick ice was known as an “ice bridge,” passable from mid-January to late March. The “bridge” was well-marked and maintained, and was accessible by foot, horse-drawn sleigh or iceboats, as seen here. The bridge also served as a gathering place on clear days, with locals bundling up to socialise and share refreshments. By 1909, advances in naval technology meant that icebreakers could keep the river clear year-round for passage by boat, putting an end to the ice bridge.
This painting entered the collection of Sir Christopher Ondaatje due to his interest in Canada’s early histories. Of this painting and the works in the auction by Alexandre Giffard, Sir Christopher explains that “they were the only ones that I have been able to find that were that primitive, that represent that early settlement.”
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