Teachers Lesson Plans

Lord Dalhousie and the Arts

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How do the landscapes and figures relate to each other in these two works?

The human figure plays an important role in both of these works. Both artists use the figure to document a way of life. Both Cockburn and Young, as Europeans, were clearly fascinated by the exotic customs of life in Lower Canada.

Where both these works differ, is in the size of the figures.

Cockburn was clearly fascinated by the Canadian winter scenes that he recorded in minute detail. Here he portrays the people of Quebec sledding down the ice cone. The figures in the foreground, dwarfed by the mountain of snow, represent aspects of fashionable society with their canine friends. Time itself is signaled by the representation of the different stages of life, from childhood to adulthood. Although the figures are not quite the subject of this painting as indicated by the title, Cockburn uses the figures and dogs to help accentuate the size of this picturesque beauty and wonder of nature.

Young however, who alone amongst the topographers, excelled as figure painter. Here he documents the livelihood of the Canadian people in his description of the fishing industry. Unlike Cockburn whose figures are stiff, stylized and out of proportion and scale to the rest of the work, Young's figures are very naturalistic and animated. Young was interested in capturing the atmosphere of this very busy time of year in the Gaspé region. He takes great pain to create a narrative. The figures interact and our eyes move from one gesture to another in this circular composition. Young renders in detail the clothing worn by the fisherman. The dogs in the lower foreground, fighting over a cod head, add an element of humour to the composition.