William Notman opened his studio in Montreal in 1856 and during the intervening fourteeen years, so far as we know, made only a few simple paste-ups containing one and two figures. He was certainly aware of the technique, for in 1856, the year Notman left Scotland, George Washington Wilson completed a large oval-shaped composition of head-and-shoulders portraits entitled "One Hundred and One Citizens of Aberdeen"1, the first of a series of seven that received wide distribution. Wilson is credited as being the first to use the technique of cutting and pasting separate photographs to form a group. Farther south in 1863 London photographer Leopold F. Manley put together a death-bed scene of Prince Albert, with the royal mourners and physicians in attendance.2 The same year Notman acquired a carte-de-visite-sized copy of Manley’s photograph, which he in turn copied and then offered prints for sale to the Montreal public3. A day or two later Notman copied a recently published engraving entitled "The Kings and Queens of England"4. This was a composition similar to Wilson’s Aberdeen portraits but produced by engr Read More
William Notman opened his studio in Montreal in 1856 and during the intervening fourteeen years, so far as we know, made only a few simple paste-ups containing one and two figures. He was certainly aware of the technique, for in 1856, the year Notman left Scotland, George Washington Wilson completed a large oval-shaped composition of head-and-shoulders portraits entitled "One Hundred and One Citizens of Aberdeen"1, the first of a series of seven that received wide distribution. Wilson is credited as being the first to use the technique of cutting and pasting separate photographs to form a group. Farther south in 1863 London photographer Leopold F. Manley put together a death-bed scene of Prince Albert, with the royal mourners and physicians in attendance.2 The same year Notman acquired a carte-de-visite-sized copy of Manley’s photograph, which he in turn copied and then offered prints for sale to the Montreal public3. A day or two later Notman copied a recently published engraving entitled "The Kings and Queens of England"4. This was a composition similar to Wilson’s Aberdeen portraits but produced by engraving likenesses from old images of the monarchs. In Canada too, a few photographers had been producing composite photographs, at least occasionally. Notman must also have been aware of the work of David Octavius Hill in Scotland, who between 1843 and 1866 produced a very large (11’ 4" x 5’) painting containing portraits of 470 clergymen entitled "The First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, Signing the Act of Separation and the Deed of Demission, at Tanfield, Edinburgh, May 23, 1843". Although the work was purely a painting, it was based on photographic portraits taken by Robert Adamson, a young Aberdeen photographer from St. Andrews, under Hill’s direction. This image, as a documentary record of the clergymen who took part in the Dissention of 1843 when the Scottish Free Church was formed, was very much in tune with Notman’s later composite photographs in which he sought to record important and colourful activities and events in a realistic yet dramatic style.
1Rodger Taylor, George Washington Wilson (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press,1981).
2The only known original copy is a carte-de-visite print which was in an heirloom album given to the Notman Photographic Archives by a Montreal family. Due to the faded condition of the print, it is difficult to tell wheter it is a painting using photographs as a guide or a combination of photography and painting.
3Notman number 6338-I, Death of Prince Albert.
4Notman number 6323-I, Kings and Queens of England.

© The McCord Museum of Canadian History, 2005. All rights reserved.

Prince Albert's Deathbed

Prince Albert's Deathbed, painting, copied 1863

Leopold & Manley Photo.
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
1863
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
5.6 x 8.5 cm
I-6342.0.1
© McCord Museum


Kings and Queens of England

Kings and Queens of England, painting, copied 1863

William Notman
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
1863
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
8.5 x 5.6 cm
I-6236.1
© McCord Museum


Near London, in the small town of Wolverhampton in the 1850s, the swede Oscar Gustave Rejlander was experimenting with multiple-image photographs in quite a different way and working towards a different end. His goal was to create a "work of art" that would compete with the finest paintings of the day.5 Influenced by Raphaël's Renaissance painting "The School of Athens" he produced an allegorical image he called "The Two Ways of Life". The technique Rejlander employed was one using multiple exposures rather than paste-up or montage. The print was made from thirty separate negatives: sixteen were required for the twenty-seven figures and fourteen to create the background. The negatives were exposed one at a time on a single sheet of photographic paper, with the areas of the paper he didn't want exposed masked out. The resulting image, completed in 1857, was both acclaimed and criticized. The criticism, however, was not directed at Rejlander's expertise in blending together the images from so many negatives, for all agreed that the work was finely executed. Some critics were strongly opposed to the use of nude models while others felt he fail Read More
Near London, in the small town of Wolverhampton in the 1850s, the swede Oscar Gustave Rejlander was experimenting with multiple-image photographs in quite a different way and working towards a different end. His goal was to create a "work of art" that would compete with the finest paintings of the day.5 Influenced by Raphaël's Renaissance painting "The School of Athens" he produced an allegorical image he called "The Two Ways of Life". The technique Rejlander employed was one using multiple exposures rather than paste-up or montage. The print was made from thirty separate negatives: sixteen were required for the twenty-seven figures and fourteen to create the background. The negatives were exposed one at a time on a single sheet of photographic paper, with the areas of the paper he didn't want exposed masked out. The resulting image, completed in 1857, was both acclaimed and criticized. The criticism, however, was not directed at Rejlander's expertise in blending together the images from so many negatives, for all agreed that the work was finely executed. Some critics were strongly opposed to the use of nude models while others felt he failed in his attempt to challenge painting, simply because he tried to create "art" by imitating another medium rather than by exploring the inherent capabilities of photography.

At about the same time H. P. Robinson, a London photographer who was also very caught up in the need to gain eminence in the "art world", began creating genre scenes by the paste-up technique. "Fading Away", made in 1858 from five separate negatives, was the first of a number he composed over the next twenty years. However, none were so elaborate as Rejlander's "Two Ways". When faster emulsions became available Robinson eventually gave up this method of making scenes saying that combination printing should be reserved for those effects that could not be obtained on one negative.6

© The McCord Museum of Canadian History, 2005. All rights reserved.

The representation of groups is seen early in European art and became common in religious themes in frescoes and tapestries in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in Italy. Especially noted for their realistic portrayal of group figures in representations of events were the artists Giotto, Masaccio and Piero della Francesca. Group paintings proliferated and became increasingly secular in subject matter over the next few centuries. Rembrandt created three of the most famous, works that are more than collections of figures but true group portraits, revealing something of the personality and inner soul of each person. Rembrandt's groups became models for his contemporaries and later artists who practised the genre of group portraiture, painting the figures in dynamic poses with varing degrees of success. It wasn't until the invention of photography that large groups of people were arranged in very stiff and formal rows, staring robot-like straight at the viewer. The blame for this degenerate form of group portraiture is usually cast upon the slow emulsion speeds requiring long exposure times. But a contributing factor was the recognition by photographers of the expedience of arra Read More
The representation of groups is seen early in European art and became common in religious themes in frescoes and tapestries in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in Italy. Especially noted for their realistic portrayal of group figures in representations of events were the artists Giotto, Masaccio and Piero della Francesca. Group paintings proliferated and became increasingly secular in subject matter over the next few centuries. Rembrandt created three of the most famous, works that are more than collections of figures but true group portraits, revealing something of the personality and inner soul of each person. Rembrandt's groups became models for his contemporaries and later artists who practised the genre of group portraiture, painting the figures in dynamic poses with varing degrees of success. It wasn't until the invention of photography that large groups of people were arranged in very stiff and formal rows, staring robot-like straight at the viewer. The blame for this degenerate form of group portraiture is usually cast upon the slow emulsion speeds requiring long exposure times. But a contributing factor was the recognition by photographers of the expedience of arranging the clients on tiers of benches so as to get a clear view of each person with the resulting efficient turnover of commissions and quick sales.

© The McCord Museum of Canadian History, 2005. All rights reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Define the lifestyle of people in Canada before and after Confederation;
  • Identify the consequences of urbanization and industrialization on the occupied territory;
  • Explain the outline and the actors of the Confederation;
  • Explain the development of technology, brought be industrialization.

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