Composites Become Regular Sevices

The earliest known Notman composite, made in 1864, is a simple thing depicting a brother and sister sitting under a spreading tree in a pastoral setting.1 This was followed by a few more of equal simplicity. But it wasn’t until 1870 with the creation of the "Skating Carnival" composite that Notman paid any serious attention to this medium. In Montreal, from April to August 1870, The Gazette carried advertisements inviting interested citizens to see the composite and the enlarged coloured version on display in his studio. The Canadian Illustrated News of May 21, 1870 featured a large Leggotype (a halftone reproduction invented by Charles Leggo) of the picture accompanied by enthusiastic comments.

Encouraged by the public reception and the brisk sales of copies of the "Skating Carnival" produced in several sizes, Notman began to include composites as part of his regular service to customers. In the next five years alone, his Montreal studio produced several dozen composites with subjects as widely diverse as the military, families, schools, actors, clergymen and sports groups including snowshoeing, rowing, camping, skating, lacrosse, football and cricket. The most ambitious of these early projects was a composite made in 1875 depicting "The First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada", which included over 450 figures. From then on, composites containing 300 to 450 portraits and of greater complexity in composition and design became commonplace.
1Copy Niven’s two children, 1864, Notman number 13159-I; Willie Niven, 1864, Notman number 12322-I; Mrs. Niven and baby, 1864, Notman number 1332-I.
Stanley G. Triggs

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