Horatio Walker gained a reputation as one of Canada’s senior painters for his idealized pastoral scenes portraying habitant life in the Quebec countryside. His landscapes rank among the best-known Canadian paintings.
Born in Listowel, Ontario, Walker was first inspired to draw country scenes of the Quebecois Habitants after a visit to Wolfe’s Cove with his father at the age of 12. At 15, already a superb draughtsman, he found employment with the Toronto photography firm Notman-Fraser. During the three years he worked there colouring photographs, Walker also learned miniature portrait painting from John Fraser and landscape painting from Lucius O'Brien. However the experience that changed his life forever was a trip to Europe in 1882, where he was exposed to Dutch watercolours and the style of French Barbizon painter Jean-François Millet.
Most of Walker’s works were exhibited in New York, thus raising his international profile. By 1907, he had become the most famous Canadian-born painter. He won four gold medals at major exhibitions, including the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A founding member of the Canadian Art Club, he was elected president in 1915. Walker’s “back to the land” message, evident in works like Autumn (1918), was strongly embraced by pre-reformation Quebec.
Collection of the Library and Archives, National Gallery of Canada