Dominick Daly O'Meara, c. 1847
oil on canvas
75 x 61.8 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 30760)
The young Dominick Daly was the second son of John Patrick O'Meara, one of the leaders of Quebec City's Irish community. Born in 1840, he studied at the Séminaire de Québec before being admitted to the bar in 1863 and beginning his career as a lawyer. He gave up the law in 1872 on the death of his father, whom he replaced in the Customs Department. He occupied a number of positions before being appointed Director of Customs for the province of Quebec, a function he fulfilled until his retirement in 1908. He died in 1931, in the city of his birth.
The artist has chosen to capture a fleeting moment: the boy, seated outdoors in a natural landscape, has interrupted his game just long enough to have his portrait sketched. The bone bow and the arrows function as attributes, linking the child to the country's Aboriginal inhabitants - an association possibly intended to underline the subject's strong connection to his native land. He was, in fact, a member of the first generation of this Irish immigrant family to be born in Quebec. Hamel has positioned his subject in space with considerable care. The figure is framed in a close-up view, with the head turned a little to the right, the arms positioned away from the body and the legs bent back, so as to suggest a certain depth. The flowers and foliage on the left and the distant vista on the opposite side - both devices employed in "Self-portrait in a Landscape" - help to define the space around the child. The spirited brushstroke adds a touch of vitality and energy to the composition.