Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
as '“staffage,” or small figures to set scale' ( Krieghoff , 72), the garb of the
habitant on the right and the woodsman on the left adds a dimension of
cultural identity and possessiveness to this painting, not necessarily as
the landowners, but in a spiritual sense of sovereignty as would an
Amerindian in a wilderness scene or, conversely, a pair of British soldiers.
The farmland here is complemented by the river with an emphasis on
shipping, a mercantile accent that betrays, perhaps, Krieghoff's European
upbringing and commercial aspirations. Moreover, the vantage point
brings the city into the centre of the composition, where it assumes a
nearly geometrical shape. The brilliant lighting brings forth such detail as
to make any number of landmarks not only visible but recognizable, from
the Tour Martello and the citadel to the left, to the Parliament building and
the towers of the Quebec cathedral to the right, with the obelisk of the
Wolfe-Montcalm monument and the steeples of the Chalmers-Wesley
Church in the middle (see Prioul and Bourrassa, 556). Highlighting the
city also causes the countryside and mountains behind it to recede in
depth and visual importance. One might say that this painting is 'Romantic'
in its direct juxtaposition of nature and culture, mediated by agriculture
yet 'urban' in its emphasis on the city and its commerce. Quite sensitive
perhaps to his buyer's market, Krieghoff constructs an image (actually
two, since another, now in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, is nearly
identical to this one in the Musée du Québec) that highlights familiar as-
pects of the city, but that nonetheless also functions as a reminder of the
French-Canadian natural and national heritage. In its favourable treat-
ment of the city in relation to agricultural land and nature, Krieghoff's
painting mirrors the complexity of Chauveau's novel.
Paradise Lost or Regained?
It would seem that, in their ambivalence, all of the works examined in
this chapter - verbal and visual - exceed the strict limits of the 'ruralist'
position, as defined by Vanasse: The forest kills … The city diminishes
existence (18). La terre paternelle aligns agriculture and nature, while
Charles Guérin allies the country and the city within their natural sur-
roundings. The paintings of Légaré and Krieghoff are clearly based on
similar combinations, true to the complexities, some might say contra-
dictions, inherent in the French-Canadian identity.
But how should we read, at least in the novels, the central role played
by the loss of the father's land ( la terre paternelle )? Can it be seen as a
parable (based on inclusion) of the loss of the fatherland ( la patrie )? In
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