View of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, created by George Ackermann, a panoramic image of the location.

The work of early Canadian artists offers a means to explore the impact of historical setting and sense of place. In recording the world around them, artists such as George Ackermann and "A View of Summerside, Prince Edward Island Looking Down Central Street from Willow Avenue" have provided us with forms of documentary records, images of early townscapes and villages in Canada and Europe that offer information about the economy, politics, and ways of life at the time they were made.

George Ackermann, View of Summerside, PEI Looking Down Central Street from Willow Avenue
1880
CAG 78.24
© 2006, Confederation Centre Art Gallery. All Rights Reserved.


About the artist

Landscape sketches in the form of bird's eye views (or aerial panoramic views) were a popular way of portraying landscapes in the 1800s. They were not just images of place, but were a kind of map of space. One important recorder of landscapes who used these kinds of views was a Canadian immigrant artist named George Ackermann. He created topographical and botanical watercolours - sketches of landscapes and plants. He managed Ackermann and Co., a well-known publisher of topographical prints in London, England, and he travelled frequently, painting in Central and South America.

He emigrated to Canada, settling in Western Canada in 1859. He later spent seven years teaching art in Ontario before moving east in 1877 to Summerside, Prince Edward Island. His views of settlements were shaped by his experience as manager of a London publishing house and art gallery that published bird's eye views and panoramas. He wanted to get away from illustrations that were dull and without atmosphere, and tried to produce images inspired by the true nature of place and community.

About Read More

About the artist

Landscape sketches in the form of bird's eye views (or aerial panoramic views) were a popular way of portraying landscapes in the 1800s. They were not just images of place, but were a kind of map of space. One important recorder of landscapes who used these kinds of views was a Canadian immigrant artist named George Ackermann. He created topographical and botanical watercolours - sketches of landscapes and plants. He managed Ackermann and Co., a well-known publisher of topographical prints in London, England, and he travelled frequently, painting in Central and South America.

He emigrated to Canada, settling in Western Canada in 1859. He later spent seven years teaching art in Ontario before moving east in 1877 to Summerside, Prince Edward Island. His views of settlements were shaped by his experience as manager of a London publishing house and art gallery that published bird's eye views and panoramas. He wanted to get away from illustrations that were dull and without atmosphere, and tried to produce images inspired by the true nature of place and community.

About the work

In 1880, Ackermann painted this watercolour, A View of Summerside, Prince Edward Island Looking down Central Street from Willow Avenue. The view is painted from the steps of a comfortable mansion on Willow Avenue, with a semi-circular driveway in the foreground; just across the road is a vacant field with grazing cows. Central Street runs from the left to the centre of town, with the houses and other buildings along the street painted in great detail. In the distance is Holman's Island, and in the harbour are vessels. A horse-and-carriage is visible in the left foreground, on Central Street, and is balanced by a steam engine and train on the right, in the middleground. Ackermann also records detail such as a horse and rider, a dog, and a person on the sidewalk. These give a sense that he is painting his work on a particular day, at a particular time.

Although he would have tried to record each place accurately, the composition of this landscape sketch shows a style that was used widely to present the space of counties, communities, and towns. This way of looking at space can be seen in other topographical views. Often in the foreground are gardens, lawns, and fields with livestock: symbols of domestic wealth and prosperity; then the eye moves progressively to take in the town and waterfront in the background.



© 2006, Confederation Centre Art Gallery. All Rights Reserved.

painting by Robert Harris 1849-1919 of the city of Charlottetown from a perspective across the North River.

On the first page of his July 1902-July 1903 sketchbook, Robert Harris wrote that after a stay at Spruce Lodge, Cymbria, P.E.I., he and others drove to Whites, North River Point (now referred to as York Point) where he "Painted a picture of the town from Whites 34 x 42". Compare the work of Ackermann with the work by Harris. What similar elements are revealed in the depictions of the communities of Summerside and Charlottetown? Compare the perspective and architecture in the works.

Robert Harris, Charlottetown Seen from the North River
undated
CAG H-33
© 2006, Confederation Centre Art Gallery. All Rights Reserved.


Examining the literary passage from Michael Crummey's novel The Wreckage, describe the particular urban space and time evoked by Crummey? What historical moment is conveyed in the description, and how does he achieve this? Research the background of the writer to consider how context has affected the sense of time and place in their work.



Church bells had pealed out over the city mid-morning, the ships in the harbour sounding their whistles and sirens, cars driving through the streets with their horn's blaring. Hiram closed up his shop and ran outside with only one arm of his coat on and his hat in his hand and he left Mercedes behind when she stopped at the Bashas' store. The front door was already locked and she went around to the back entrance, let herself into the kitchen, where a celebration was under way.  The Basha family and most of the other Lebanese on the city crammed into the space, several huge pots simmering on the stove, a bottle of rum open on the table. Rania hugged Mercedes and kissed her on both cheeks and everyone in the Read More
Examining the literary passage from Michael Crummey's novel The Wreckage, describe the particular urban space and time evoked by Crummey? What historical moment is conveyed in the description, and how does he achieve this? Research the background of the writer to consider how context has affected the sense of time and place in their work.



Church bells had pealed out over the city mid-morning, the ships in the harbour sounding their whistles and sirens, cars driving through the streets with their horn's blaring. Hiram closed up his shop and ran outside with only one arm of his coat on and his hat in his hand and he left Mercedes behind when she stopped at the Bashas' store. The front door was already locked and she went around to the back entrance, let herself into the kitchen, where a celebration was under way.  The Basha family and most of the other Lebanese on the city crammed into the space, several huge pots simmering on the stove, a bottle of rum open on the table. Rania hugged Mercedes and kissed her on both cheeks and everyone in the kitchen--men, women and children--stood to take their turn.

They left the house in the afternoon and set off down Prescott toward the waterfront, where thousands of others lined the streets. Flags and bunting were hung from the buildings and people leaned out the windows above the sidewalks. Long cheers rippled through the crowd, spontaneous renditions of "God Save the King" and "Ode to Newfoundland." But Mercedes felt strangely subdued for all the commotion and fuss.

In the early evening she slipped away from the Bashas and wandered up toward the Kirk. Off the top of Long's Hill she caught sights of another gathering on the pavement, traffic backed up on both directions. She walked halfway up the hill before she heard the sound of the trumpet.1



1 Michael Crummey, The Wreckage. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2005, 159-160. Excerpt reprinted with permission of the author.
© 2006, Confederation Centre Art Gallery. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

These materials are intended to be used at the secondary level to address art education, language arts, and social studies curriculum outcomes. Students will (be expected to):

Social Studies

  • apply concepts associated with time, continuity, and change
  • research and describe historical events and ideas from different perspectives
  • identify, evaluate, and use appropriate primary and secondary sources to learn and communicate about the past
  • use spatial concepts and models to interpret and make decisions about the organization, distribution, and interaction of physical and human phenomena

Language Arts

  • ask discriminating questions to acquire, interpret, analyze, and evaluate ideas and information
  • generate questions as a guide to research
  • examine relationships between different forms of expression

Visual Arts

  • derive images through the study of historical images from their own and other's cultures
  • investigate visual communication systems as integral to everyday life

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