The Woolsey Family, 1809
German, Canadian, 2
oil on canvas
59.9 x 86.5 cm
Gift of Major Edgar C. Woolsey, Ottawa, 1952
National Gallery of Canada (no. 5875)
Between July 1808 and July 1809, William Berczy was living in Quebec City. From his correspondence with his wife during this period, we learn that he was devoting himself diligently to the creation of this family portrait, executing a study of each of the eight figures before transposing them onto canvas. The composition is organized around the hierarchical, frieze-like positioning of the people depicted: in an architectural interior that unifies the whole, the father, shown standing at the rear, dominates the image; the mother and the rest of the family occupy the mid-ground, while the dog is alone in the foreground. The smooth finish and the rather cool chromatic range, with green and blue predominating, give the work a distinctly neoclassical flavour.