Artist CV:Cornelius Krieghoff
1815 - 1872
Cornelius David Krieghoff painted images of Canada when the development of popular imagery of the country was in its early stages. He was an entrepreneur and created a populist vision of the country’s landscape and peoples, describing the customs and traditions of various Native peoples and the activities and character of the French-Canadian settler or habitant.
Krieghoff emigrated to New York and joined the United States Army in 1837. There he met his future wife, Émilie Gauthier, and in 1840 they moved to Montreal, where he began working as an artist. He travelled to Paris in 1844, where he copied masterworks at the Louvre under the direction of Michel-Martin Drölling, and returned to Montreal in 1846, advertising himself as an artist. He established a studio and began painting his views of people and activities. In these works, clothing and supporting objects are painted in fine detail while faces of the figures are more generalized. By 1850 Krieghoff was producing numerous paintings and had made prints from ten of them that were available in both colour and black and white. He was exhibiting and selling at auctions, with his ambitious production aimed for sales to a rising middle class.
He and his family moved to Quebec City in 1853, where Krieghoff painted city views and the surrounding region. Among his repertoire were emblematic figures of Native peoples and habitants with particular attributes and actions defining their class or regional characteristics, as well as scenes of social celebration and winter festivities.
Krieghoff continued to exhibit his work and sell prints and photo-reproductions of his work while he lived in Europe (1863 -1870); however, the prolific production that he was engaged in during his years in Quebec slowed down. He maintained connections with Canada while abroad and the sale and exhibition of his work continued. He returned briefly to Quebec in 1871 before announcing a move to Chicago, where he died a few months later in 1872.
Courtesy the National Gallery of Canada
KRIEGHOFF, Cornelius David
Born in Amsterdam, Holland, the son of Johann Ernst Krieghoff (b.Uphoven, Germany) and Isabella Ludivica Wauters (b.Ghent, Belgium). His father, Johann, met Isabella in the city of Amsterdam, Holland, and they married May 12, 1811. They had four children: Frederika Louisa (b.1811); Charlotta Sophia (b.1813); Cornelius David (b.1815) and Johann Ernst (b.1820). The Krieghoffs moved to Dusseldorf sometime between 1815 and 1820 where Cornelius' father operated a carpet factory. In 1822 they moved again, this time to Mainburg near Schweinfurt where Johann again established a carpet factory. Later he was able to send his son Cornelius to university in Dusseldorf and Rotterdam where Cornelius studied botany, music and painting. His son then earned his way through Europe as an itinerant musician and craftsman. In 1837 Cornelius arrived in New York and joined the United States Army on July 5th of that year. He was assigned to Battery 1, 1st United States Artillery, with which unit he served until May 5, 1840. We learn from his grand-nephew, William Krieghoff, an artist and illustrator with the New York Herald staff, in a letter to G.M. Fairchild, that his grand-uncle served in Florida as follows, The Seminole war breaking out he joined the U.S. army in order to observe and record the events of that sanguinary conflict in the Everglades of Florida. He made several hundreds of drawings and the U.S. Government commissioned him to make replicas of them for the War Department Archives, which he did in his studio at Rochester, New York, where he resided for several years. After being discharged from his unit May 5, 1840 at Burlington, Vermont, following three years' service, he re-enlisted, then deserted all on the same day. Marius Barbeau offered this explanation for Krieghoff's action, We may surmise that Louise (Gauthier) had something to do with his need for freedom. For a little daughter, Emily, was born to them some time before March, 1841. He had met Louise Gauthier dit Saint-Germain, at a hotel in which he was staying in New York shortly after his arrival in United States. They must have kept in touch with one another or have even been married while he was in the army. His marriage might not have been recorded in the army records. His decision to enlist again with the possibility of being sent to another campaign was probably too much for Louise. The replicas of his drawings which he was supposed to have done in Rochester, New York, have never been located and most authorities are skeptical of the replicas' existence. His initial sketches of the Florida campaign were mentioned by G.M. Fairchild when giving an account of Krieghoff's army service as follows, The campaign (of Florida) to him was one of severe labour, for in addition to his sergeant duties he determined to make an exhaustive series of sketches illustrating every phase of the war and its participants. From these drawings Krieghoff made a large number of paintings for the U.S. Government. Whether these paintings are yet in the archives of the U.S. Government I do not know. The sketches which became the property of John S. Budden, Esq., were all destroyed in the great Quebec fire of June, 1881 . . . . Krieghoff made his way with his bride out of Vermont to Rochester, New York, where he had a studio, and from there to Toronto, Canada, to visit his brother Ernst who had deserted from the American Navy earlier. From there Cornelius and Louise probably went to Longueuil where Louise's parents accepted them into their home. Just recently, a painting has been discovered which he must have done three or four years after his arrival in Canada (c.1844). It was found by Paul Duval and authenticated by Dr. Marius Barbeau. At Longueil Krieghoff began to depict life of the 'habitant' and of the Caughnawaga Indians. Dr. Barbeau described this period as follows, His French-Canadian interiors of the Longueuil period often show a beautiful young woman with her daughter, whom he was fond of using as models. They were Louise and Emily, his wife and young daughter. One of those pictures goes back to 1842 or 1843; the child was then about two years old. A reproduction of this was made in the form of a colour lithograph entitled 'Canadian Habitants Playing at Cards'. Of the year 1846 we have the 'Picture Pedlar' with the inscription 'Montreal, 1846', at the back of the canvas, and 'Habitant Sleigh'. In the first, a gentleman pedlar is showing chromos to some French-Canadians whom we recognize as 'le Vieux Lapocane', Louise's father, and his family. Emily, then a child in arms, is there with the others. The second picture is a large and delightful winter landscape where a group of people are seated in, or stand around, a red 'berline' on the ice in front of Longueuil; among them we see Louise, a pretty young woman in a fur bonnet and bright homespun cape, with Emily, a few years old, and 'Vieux Lapocane'. Cornelius himself is there, still young, long-haired, clean-shaven, and handsome, in a winter sporting costume. During this period Krieghoff went to the Caughnawaga Indian reserve to depict the daily life of the Indians - on their way to the hunt, or women going to market, sometimes on snowshoes, the men often with red toques and white Hudson's Bay blanket coats. Toboggans were often pulled by the subjects. He did summer scenes as well showing the subjects around their campfires, birch bark canoes by the shore, kettles over the fires, wigwams, dogs, all set in a forest background. Details of his Indian paintings are gathered under the Catalogue Raisonée of Krieghoff's Paintings pages 131 to 148 of Barbeau's book Cornelius Krieghoff, Pioneer Painter Of North America published in 1934. Krieghoff had been reasonably successful at Longueuil where he had received the patronage of Lord Elgin in the printing of four lithographs based on his paintings entitled Place D'Armes (13-5/8 x 19-1/8), Indian Wigwam in Lower Canada (13½ x 19½), Sledge Race Near Montreal (13-3/8 x 19-1/8), French-Canadian Habitants Playing At Cards (14½ x 20½) all lithographed in colour by A. Borum, Munich, Germany, and printed by Thomas Kammerer. He had also received the patronage of a chief engineer engaged in the building of the Victoria Bridge who bought forty or fifty of his paintings. He had friends like Henry Fletcher Joseph Jackson (grandfather of A.Y. Jackson) general freight agent for the Canada Atlantic Railway. When Jackson left Longueuil he took along three of Krieghoff's paintings one of which is now in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada. The exodus of his patrons following the completion of various construction projects in the area as well as the anticipated move of Louise's parents to Ogdensburg, U.S.A., brought about his decision to move to Montreal. There, he contemplated the patronage of wealthy merchants. After his move there he discovered to his disappointment that the wealthy of that growing centre were more interested in European art. To eat he was forced to turn to sign painting and to accepting commissions to paint portraits of steeds of the wealthy. He even decorated pieces of furniture including table tops (one, forty-two inches in diameter), also Victorian tilt-top tables with miniature landscapes. He sold his smaller canvases from door to door. He made copies of European paintings for several of his patrons. During the period 1849 to 1853 he moved from place to place in Montreal: at Pied-du-Courant (1849); Beaver Hall (1850); Barclay Place (1852) and Aylmer House (1853). One of his sketch books of this period lost for many years was discovered in England and was purchased by Dr. Sigmund Samuel for the Canadian collection of the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, and shed much light on the life in Montreal during that period. It contains twenty-nine water colours and seven pencil sketches on sheets of Whatman paper (9½ x 12) watermarked 1831. There had been eleven additional pages in the book according to stubs of removed pages. At the bottom of the sketches in Krieghoff's handwriting are explanation's of his subjects which included Canadian Selling Rolls of Baccy, Selling Canadian Homespun Cloth, Montreal, Canadian Woman with Maple Syrup, Frozen Sheep, Market, Montreal, Montreal Swells, Lady Swells, Officer and Muffin, Canadian Wedding, Celebrated Blind Fiddler and others. Three of these sketches appeared in Canadian Art in 1952 when J. Russell Harper wrote an article on the sketch book. They were also discussed in the Spring Issue of New Frontiers the same year. In 1851 he had met John Budden for the first time, and in 1853 was persuaded by Budden to move to Quebec City with his wife and daughter. Budden, a Quebec City auctioneer, had sold some of Krieghoff's paintings which he bought from the artist on his 1851 visit to Montreal. He was a partner in the firm of Maxham and Company, auctioneers, and was well known in Quebec City. When the Krieghoffs arrived in Quebec they found a place to live at Budden's cottage located at Mount Pleasant on upper St. John Street. During that winter Budden took Krieghoff to Montmorency Falls, a winter playground, where they met important people from the City. At the Falls even the Governor General climbed the Sugar Loaf and coasted on a toboggan at full speed down the ice cone coming to rest at the outlet of the river half a mile away. Krieghoff was introduced to British Army Officers stationed at the Citadel, sportsmen, businessmen, and a host of other new friends. G.M. Fairchild, Jr. explained this period as follows, Stimulated and encouraged by the enthusiasm of Mr. Budden and the liberal purchases of his pictures by such men as James Gibb, J.R. Young, C.R. O'Connor, D.D. Young, J.J. Foote, and also by many of the British officers stationed in Quebec (who sent or took Krieghoff's paintings back to Britain), Krieghoff entered upon a most successful career. It is true his pictures at that date brought small prices, but again he was a rapid and prolific worker, and his output was very considerable. He had, however, the bad habit of making three or four replicas of any picture that pleased him. Portrait painting interested him not at all, although I have run across three or four bearing his signature. But nevertheless he did portraits of John Budden in 1853 (now in the collection of Mr. Esmond Peck, Montreal) and a fair number of others. He also did a series of paintings of the Montmorency area including five canvases in the winter of 1853 one of which became the subject of a lithograph The Ice Cone At The Falls Of Montmorency Near Quebec, Lower Canada, in 1853 produced by Day & Son, Lithographers to the Queen. W. Simpson of London, England actually did the work of engraving. The lithograph was then run off by Ackermann & Co. also of that city. During his career he did about 19 subjects which became lithographs. They are listed on page 126 of Cornelius Krieghoff, Pioneer Painter Of North America by Dr. Barbeau. Gerald Stevens in his book In A Canadian Attic also lists these prints and cautions the prospective collector of Krieghoff works not to confuse the prints Indian Hunter Calling Moose and Indian Hunter In Blizzard, which were mounted on canvas and given a heavy coat of varnish, with original paintings. Later a limited edition of mezzotints of an Indian encampment were produced by F. Petitjean after Krieghoff showing a male Indian sitting in front of his wigwam with a flintlock gun and an axe beside him. He is facing two squaws. Also in the picture are two children, a dog, and a man carrying a canoe. This type of print (after Krieghoff) was in 1963 valued at fifty dollars or more and if in good condition worth double or triple that value. When Krieghoff reached Europe with his wife he made copies of paintings in the Louvre by famous artists including Lot's Daughters after Rubens; Romulus and Remus after Champmartin; The Harvesters of the Roman Marches after Robert; Approaching Storm after Ruysdael. At the Luxembourg museum he made copies of Strolling Actors after Baird; German Forester talking to Children in a Sleigh after Wickembourg; Marine View, Moonlight after Grolig and perhaps others. He probably had made other copies while travelling through Europe as a young man. He painted portraits of his wife and daughter who accompanied him on his trip to Europe and did original work apart from his copies. After their return to Canada he did a self portrait (dated 1855) which is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, also a portrait of Colonel J.F. Turnbull (coll. William P. Wolfe, Montreal); The Horse Fraser, Ridden By Mr. Miller (coll. Dominion Gallery, Montreal) as well as other portraits but he returned to the theme of the habitant which was to win for him a lasting place in the history of Canadian art. About 1850 he began his series of paintings about habitants cheating the toll with Bilking The Toll (12 x 17½) followed by The Toll Bar (11¼ x 20-3/4); Cheating The Toll (16½ x 24) dated 1857; Cheating The Toll Gate (15½ x 24½) 1857; Running The Toll Gate; Toll Gate (17 x 25); Running The Toll (18 x 25½) 1860; Running The Toll Gate (12½ x 17) 1861; Running The Toll Gate (11½ x 17½) 1862; one in this series was painted for his daughter Emily for her second marriage to Count de Wendt, who was born in Russia and settled in Chicago. (Emily's first husband, Hamilton Burnett, Esq., Lt. of the 17th Regiment, Quebec, died shortly after marriage). The de Wendt's gift was created in a Russian setting, including costumes, sleigh, horses and harness and general surroundings. When discovered by Norman Seagram (Toronto stockbroker) the setting seemed strange because of the Russian theme and had to be authenticated by William Watson, art collector and dealer from Montreal. Another The Toll Gate valued at $10,000 was donated by Hugh P. Buchanan (Publisher, Lethbridge Herald) and the late Donald W. Buchanan (former Assoc. Director, NGC) with other paintings, to the City of Lethbridge on the condition that ample provision be made for their display; the City accepted the gift. One Bilking the Toll was discovered in the basement of a home by Maxwell S. Novis, Toronto antique dealer, in 1961. This painting (14 x 22) dated 1862 brought one offer of $10,000. Two other Bilking the Tolls were found in Australia bringing the known number of this series to fourteen. Between 1847 and 1862 Krieghoff did many scenes of habitants driving sleighs in winter, usually three or four depending on the size of the sleigh and at other times with two sleighs engaged in a race. For the historians Krieghoff's paintings provide much detail on clothing and customs of the people of Quebec of his time. Many of his paintings deal with Indians at Caughnawaga and at Lorette. The Caughnawaga Reserve is outside Montreal and the Lorette Reserve outside Quebec City. The Caughnawaga area Indians are descendants of the Iroquois, and the Lorette area Indians of the Hurons. By the mid 1800's these tribes dressed much the same since they both bartered with the Hudson's Bay Company. The Hudson's Bay blanket coats were popular not only with the Indians but with the sportsmen and habitants as well. An oval painting of an Indian guide and hunter (10-5/8in. x 8-7/8in.) done about 1850, was sold for $2,000 by Fraser Brothers Limited, Montreal auctioneers, in 1963. Another, of Caughnawaga Indians, was offered for sale at $12,000 by Jacoby's House of Antiques, Montreal, in 1969. Many others have been sold through auctions at Sotheby's of London, England, who established a Canadian branch at Simpsons, Toronto, only recently. It was at Sotheby's Toronto branch that Dr. Morton Shulman sold seven Krieghoff oil paintings for $67,550. He had purchased these seven in 1955 for $20,000; Christie's also of London, England, have sold many Krieghoffs as well. About 1856 Krieghoff began to produce his merrymaking scenes and it is in this group of which there are five, that his masterpiece Merrymakers (34½ x 48) was created in 1860. It is not surprising that he gave his best in these creations for he himself was a merrymaker. He loved a gathering of good friends, music and dancing, and as a musician himself he probably contributed his fair share to the party atmosphere. Such parties took place at Mère Gendron's inn at Beauport just a few miles away from the winter playground of the Montmorency Falls. It was following one of these parties which often did not break up until the early hours of the morning, that Krieghoff was inspired to paint a large canvas in which many of the faces of his friends would appear. Many other friends however pleaded to be left out of the composition because of the fear that their reputations of school teachers, church wardens, inn keepers, and a dozen other occupations would be jeopardized. A fictitious name for the inn J. Bte. Jolifou was invented and many familiar faces did not appear. The model for this inn, Gendron's at Beauport, just a few miles north east of Quebec City, was still in existence in 1934 although it had been much transformed. Merrymakers was purchased from the artist by James Gibb, a friend and patron of Krieghoff. When Gibb died the painting became the property of his wife who later married David Ross. It was then inherited by J.T. Ross, Esq., of Quebec City, who sold it to Lord Beaverbrook in 1957 for $25,000. Lord Beaverbrook made a gift of it to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, N.B. This gallery founded by Beaverbrook and given to the Province of New Brunswick exhibited the largest collection of Krieghoff's ever assembled. The exhibition took place in 1961 through the cooperation of many public galleries and private collectors. A catalogue was prepared for the occasion with the text written by Edwy Cooke who was then Curator of the gallery. Krieghoff did a series on a settler's log house in winter (eleven known) between 1856 and 1863; also on habitant homes in winter (twenty-two in this series), painted between 1845 and 1863. Settler's Log House from the former series (24½ x 36½) was painted in 1856 and is now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario. It has been reproduced on several Canadian Christmas cards. From the latter series the Hamilton Art Gallery acquired The Habitant's Home which was presented to the Gallery by Reginald W. Watkins of Erindale, Ontario in 1962. The Habitant Farm (24 x 36) done in 1854 is owned by the National Gallery of Canada and was given to the Gallery by the Estate of the Hon. W.C. Edwards, Ottawa, in 1928. Krieghoff produced a series of paintings on Winter Road, Snowstorm, Blizzard series. One of them The Blacksmith's Shop (22-1/4 x 36-1/4) owned by the Art Gallery of Ontario, was reproduced in Great Canadian Painting by Elizabeth Kilbourn, published in 1966. Krieghoff did many other series which included summer and autumn scenes at Lake Beauport, Lake St. Charles, Jacques Cartier River, Lake Memphramagog and elsewhere. One such painting appeared in Dr. Barbeau's book Cornelius Krieghoff published by McClelland & Stewart in 1962, entitled Owl's Head, Lake Memphramagog. During Krieghoff's career it is estimated that he painted over seven hundred canvases. His Quebec period (1853-1867) was his most prolific. His wife Louise, after their return from Europe disappeared from his life. It is known however that she lived in Denver, Colorado, until the early 1900's. Krieghoff himself left Quebec around 1867 and went to live with his daughter and her husband in Chicago but he returned to Quebec later in 1871 and revisited Montreal and Quebec City. It was in that year that he painted his last merrymaking scene J.B. Jolifou, Aubergiste (22 x 36) now owned by Mrs. W. Pitfield of Montreal; also the canvases New Year's Day Parade (25 x 42) The Blacksmith's Shop (mentioned above), On The Quebec Heights (17 x 25) and probably others. He then returned to Chicago where he died a few months later while writing a letter to his good friend John Budden. Today there are still living distant relatives of Cornelius Krieghoff. Mrs. Edwin Krieghoff of Gross Pointe, Michigan, U.S.A., whose late husband was the great-great-grand nephew of the artist, attended the 1963 exhibition of Krieghoff works held at the Willistead Art Gallery in Windsor, Ontario.
Colin S. MacDonald
A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker
National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada