ArtworksCharles Jones WayView of Quebec from the River Marshes, 18991835 - 1919Sold
Inscriptionssigned, ‘CJ WAY’ (recto, lower right)
Laing Galleries, Toronto.
Master’s Gallery, Calgary.
The Cullen Collection of 19th Century Canadian Watercolours.
LiteratureG. Blair Laing, Memoirs of an Art Dealer 2, (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Limited, 1982), reproduced p. 75.
From the Conquest of New France until the late 19th century, British landscape artists, professional or military topographers, crossed over to the south shore of the St. Lawrence River to take advantage of the exceptional view of Quebec City. From the mouth of the Etchemin River to the west, all the way to Pointe Lévy in the east, painters and photographers rendered in all their splendour the different views they admired of the old city. Attracted to the indian encampment located at the Anse-aux-Sauvages Inlet, many artists preferred the Pointe Lévy site, which offered a vast and spectacular panorama of the capital.
During a trip to Quebec City in 1899, under a beautiful summer sky and a midday sun, Charles Jones Way painted two expansive low-tide views from the marshlands upstream from the Joliette shoreline and the Anse-aux-Sauvages Inlet. The two views, both of the same size, one facing west and the other east, complete each other and, in a way, create a vast panorama of the entire north shore. The artist was familiar with this site, having visited it for the first time in the beginning of the 1860’s, as we can see from one of his sepias photographed by Notman for North American Scenery. This view was captured from the exact same place in winter by John A. Fraser in 1866 (Private Collection). The former had possibly inspired the latter, who worked as a colourist at Notman.
William Notman after Charles Jones Way, Québec from Pointe Levi, from the 1864 North American Scenery album ; albumen silver print, 33 x 44.2 cm (paper); 15.2 x 25.3 cm (image). Bequest of Michel Morisset, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2012.236.05. Image: MNBAQ, Denis Legendre.
A recognized image of Canadian iconography, View of Quebec from the River Marshes, 1899 represents Québec City’s most famous profile. Starting in 1897, Way sketched a smaller version of this view which may have served as a study, or even a preparatory work, tracing the outline of this composition.
In one of the watercolours offered by Alan Klinkhoff Gallery, Way describes Cap Diamant in great detail: crowned by its citadel; Dufferin Terrace; the Monument to Wolfe and Montcalm; the Château Frontenac (which had been built in 1892-93 and 1897); the new Monument to Champlain, erected in 1898; the parliament building tower; the Courthouse; as well as a part of the University of Laval. Below the Château, following Mountain Hill Street, the road connecting the Upper Town to the Lower Town, one can discern the Champlain Market. The river is bustling with maritime activity, with plumes of steamers, a great white boat (perhaps the Quebec-Levis ferry) and other vessels. Three barges moored in the marsh enliven the foreground. The artist offers a lovely spot of light and shade over Levis, with its rocky escarpment, luxuriant vegetation, and the cliff-top houses of Saint-Laurent Street, which overlook the Grand Trunk Railway (which now serves as a bicycle path).
View of Quebec from the River Marshes, Lévis, 1899, compares to the work featured at the R.C.A. exhibition in 1900, The Noonday Gun, Quebec (no. 185), which Way submitted along with a watercolour of the Customs House (no. 188). The Noonday Gun, Quebec offers a more distant view and wider panorama of the city, one that encompasses the Customs House and the Saint Charles River Estuary to the east. In it, the barges are absent from the foreground, by no means an insignificant detail. The Noonday Gun, Quebec makes reference to the traditional military cannon shot fired each day from the Citadelle at precisely 12-noon.
Unlike the View of Quebec from the River Marshes, Lévis, 1899, Looking Down the St. Lawrence River from Lévis offers an entirely unusual and opposing point of view from the very same site, facing downstream. Indeed, this perspective allows the artist to create a panorama of Cote de Beaupré and the Laurentians range beyond the plateaus of the north shore, including from left to right Montmorency Falls, the north shore escarpment, and the western point of Ile d’Orleans. Near Pointe Levy we perceive the remains of the old, isolated high dock of the Gilmour yard, built far away from the shore on Indian Cove. In the center of the composition, we recognize Mont St. Anne and part of Cap Tourmente. On the river, apart from two boats with their sails unfurled - one of which seems to be a schooner -, we notice a large white boat billowing thick, black smoke. This luxurious steamship shuttled guests between Quebec, Charlevoix and the Saguenay.
These two romantic and naturalistic views, with their warm and bright tones, saturated light and atmospheric effects, give much attention not only to the topography and buildings of the area, but equally to the natural elements observed in the marsh in the foreground. Indeed, the artist depicts with powerful realism the hay, grasses, mosses, and other marine plants, as well as the sinuosities of the water, the rocks, and the gray sands flanking the waterway. Both works demonstrate the artist’s great mastery of watercolour and the maturity he acquired over a career spanning forty years. Charles J. Way’s watercolours do not correspond to the new, modern aesthetic of his time, such as the vistas of Quebec by Morrice, Huot or Cullen. Rather, they perpetuate the great British tradition of topographical and picturesque landscapes of the nineteenth century. Without a doubt, their pictorial qualities reaffirm Way’s reputation as one of the greatest watercolourists of his time in Canada.
Regarding illustrations and the popularity of this site among artists, please see notice on John A. Fraser on the Alan Klinkhoff Gallery website (klinkhoff.ca), as well as John R. Porter and Didier Prioul. Québec, plein la vue. Québec, Musée du Québec/Les Publications du Québec, 1994, 299 p. Among the artists who have painted from Pointe Levy, we note Richard Short, James Peachy, George Heriot, Charles Ramus Forrest, Robert Auchmuty Sproule, James Pattison Cockburn, Henry William Barnard, James Hope Wallace, George Seton, Fred H. Holloway, Cornelius Krieghoff and Lucius O’Brien.
This work of art has been reproduced in G. Blair Laing. Memoirs of an Art Dealer 2, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1982, p. 75, plates 29 and 84.
As can be seen in one of Robert Clow Todd’s small pictures dated between 1840 and 1850 (MNBAQ). It was a vast shipyard belonging to the prosperous Allan Gilmour & Co., where they stored square-pine and planks destined for England. See Mario Béland, « À l’anse aux Sauvages », Cap-aux-Diamants, no 69 (printemps 2002), p. 63.