Thielcke: A recently Found
Portrait and some Reflections on
Thielcke's Links with the English School
by Ross Fox
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23 Of some 257 known religious paintings by Plamondon, it has been estimated that
only about rive or six were original compositions, ail dating from the
1840s. It has also been suggested that these original works were painted
at least in partial response to Thielcke's practice; Plamondon wished to
prove he could do the same. Porter, pp. 1, 17-19, 21.
24 "What is more disgraceful is to see the grimace that he gives to
the Saviour. The bearing of the figure of Saint John exudes baseness and
indifference; nothing is more monstrous or more ridiculous than to see
him baptizing Jesus with his left hand, with his right hand resting lazily
on his hip. His dove is most unfortunate; it is foreshortened and appears
in an absolutely flat space; the light behind its tail produces an effect
that anyone can only too easily interpret What we have just said applies
to the composition only. Considered individually, the figures are drawn
fairly acceptably, but the overall effect is perfectly awful. The head
of Christ is bent so far toward the right shoulder that the neck appears
as if it were broken. The drapery, which should play a significant role
in an historical painting, is very poorly arranged; the folds are ail too
even and too rounded. Unfortunately, Mr. Editor, the colouring is no better
than the rest. This scene must have taken place in broad daylight and have
been brilliant and luminous, yet there is no richness here to offset the
poor composition and sorry drawing of the figures; a ruddy hue dominates
the entire painting. Could it be that the artist is so afraid of the variety
of colours, so necessary and so pleasing in a painting, that he used only
red throughout? What could be more disagreeable, more monotonous, and more
boring than this effect."
25 "Raving most certainly at heart only truth, justice, and the advancement
of proper artistic principles, had we found some aspects of this painting
worthy of attention, we would unhesitatingly have lavished praise on them
and presented them to the public in the most favourable light."
26 Porter, pp. 18-19; Morisset, "Thielke au Bas-Canada," p. 2; Morisset, Peintres et tableaux,
II, p. 106.
27 The Quebec Mercury, 12 May 1838, p. 2.
28 Yves Lacasse, The Way of the Cross of the Church of Notre-Dame
de Montréal, exhibition catalogue (Montreal: The Montreal Museum
of Fine Arts, 1984), pp. 28-34.
29 It is inscribed at the 1ower left, Hy. D. Thielcke /
30 Accession no.: 26538. Restored by Barbara A. Ramsay, Restoration and Conservation
Laboratory, National Gallery of Canada, in 1981-82. Provenance: Charles
Crawford Lindsay; Bernard Sauvé, Saint-Anicet, Quebec; purchased
by the National Gallery of Canada in 1981. According to Robert J. Lindsay (letter, 5 August 1985), this painting came into the possession of his
father, Charles Crawford Lindsay, about five years prior to his death in
1977, "having been sent to him by legal representatives of another branch
of the family (Lindsay) who felt that he should have it as the senior living
representative of the family." It is thought that it came from Hamilton
Lindsay of Montreal or members of his family.
31 Pinks, of course, have no fragrance. This action is therefore imbued with a gentle
irony, for the possibi1ity of a pink having a scent can on1y belong to
the child's innocent imaginings. Here the artist has demonstrated a charming
psychological insight into a reaction natural to smal1 children, who
assume that all flowers must necessarily be fragrant. Thielcke was the
father of a large family, and no doubt observed such responses in his own
32 R. H. Hubbard, Two Painters of Quebec: Antoine Plamondon 1802-1895,
Théophile Hamel 1817-1870, exhibition catalogue (Ottawa: National
Gallery of Canada, 1970), p. 75, no. 22.
33 Lacasse, pp. 27-28, fig. 3.
34 "It seems that this lady, totally absorbed in the future plans of
her illustrious spouse, wanted to see whether a crown would really suit
her, and thus took good care to have herself painted with a comb looking
for all the world like a tiara. On seeing this painting, many people exclaimed it's still too soon!
but as a great man once said, things move
quickly in Canada."
35 C. Willett Cunnington, English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth
Century (London: Faber and Faber, 1937), pp. 116-17.
36 Signed and dated on the verso in a manner similar to the Ottawa portrait, except
that now Thielcke refers to himself as "Historical Painter" to the late
Duchess of York.
37 Morisset, Peintres et tableaux, pp. 100-101; Gérard Morisset, La
peinture traditionnelle au Canada français (Ottawa: Le Cercle
du Livre de France, 1960), p. 138, reproduced following p. 79; Abbot Lionel
Saint-George Lindsay, Notre Dame de la Jeune-Lorette en la Nouvelle-France (Montreal: La Cie de Publication de La Revue Canadienne, 1900), pp.
38 Charles Holmes, "The Heirs of Lawrence, 1825-1835," Burlington
Magazine, LXIX, November 1936, pp. 194-201.
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