Few, if any, portrayed 19th-century Canadians and Canada’s outdoors as prolifically as Cornelius Krieghoff, who, upon immigrating to the country, produced more than two thousand works. The Amsterdam native came to the United States in 1837 at the age of 22 and enlisted in the US Army for three years. After participating in the Second Seminole War in Florida, he was discharged at Burlington, Vermont, where he re-enlisted and immediately deserted. After stints in Paris and Montreal he relocated to Quebec City where he was highly successful, producing paintings on an almost industrial scale. He found many patrons among a growing Canadian middle class who wanted something colorful and pleasant with which to decorate their new homes.
The artist spent much of the 1860s in Europe. In 1871, he headed back to Quebec before relocating to Chicago where he died in 1872. Today, his works can be found at a number of Canadian venues including the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The aesthetic merits of Krieghoff’s works have been questioned and he was criticized for not being a truly Canadian artist, but drawing his inspiration too narrowly on the 17th-century Dutch tradition. But however critics may judge him, many Canadians have enjoyed his work.
Read more about Krieghoff’s work and his fascinating life in Issue 35 of Dutch the magazine. For more on the Dutch in North America, read Hiding in Plain Sight by Tom Bijvoet.
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