`Unquestionably Canadian'

AN art connoisseur, on seeing this painting but not the signature or date, might proclaim, ``Unques-tionably Krieghoff.'' And he or she would be right. In drawing that conclusion the connoisseur would have had to form a mind's-eye picture of the genre by and large, the era when it was important, and the works of artists who came to public attention at that time. Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872) was born in Amsterdam of a Dutch mother and a German father. He is believed to have studied painting at D"usseldorf, his father's home town, following which he traveled around Europe as an itinerant painter and musician.

Would the connoisseur have seen in this painting that European influence, perhaps in the way the scene is set, and in the anecdotal use of figures?

Krieghoff emigrated to the United States in 1837 at 22 years of age. He enlisted in the American army and did drawings of the Seminole wars in Florida. On the exhibition circuit in the 1830s and '40s were works by such American artists as Benjamin West, John Singleton Copley, and John Vanderlyn. Our connoisseur, still focusing on Krieghoff, might have looked for threads of similarity -- or distinct lines of difference.

Krieghoff left the army, married a young lady from French Canada, and by 1841 he had crossed into Canada. The couple was known to have spent time in Toronto, where Ernest, a brother of Cornelius, had established himself (or was about to, depending on which art historian's version one favors) in a cabinetmaking business.

Thereafter Cornelius and his wife, Louise, proceeded to her hometown, Longueuil, Quebec, across the river from Montreal.

Louise gave birth to a daughter, to be named Emily, and between 1845 and 1853 the Krieghoff family shared a variety of addresses in Montreal. Then the three of them moved to the city of Quebec, which, at that time, was the capital of Canada.

Our art connoisseur immediately would have identified this picture, ``Settler's Log House,'' as being Canadian, and most probably French-Canadian, by virtue of the apparel and implements depicted.

Cornelius traveled widely throughout Quebec province, producing works assessed as combining technical and com-positional merit with an assured use of color, veracity in subject portrayal, and powerful qualities of mood and emotion.

He also produced quick-profit potboilers for Quebec garrison army officers and Philadelphia patrons.

An energetic, resourceful man, Krieg-hoff found the time to teach painting at two schools in the province. Some might also term him eclectic, or less kindly, opportunistic, since he trekked back to Europe, specifically to London, Paris, and D"usseldorf, returning with canvases copied, presumably, from English and Continental paintings.

Krieghoff's daughter married and moved to Chicago, and in 1867-68 he joined her there, where he remained to live out his days.

And so it was that Cornelius Krieg-hoff opened and closed his New World chapters as an artist in the United States. In between he had lived the better part of 27 years -- albeit less than half his lifetime -- in Canada.

Canadian art connoisseurs in general maintain that Krieghoff was at the height of his painting powers in Quebec between 1856 and 1862.

On the strength of that you may forgive them for claiming, as they do: ``Krieghoff? -- unquestionably Canadian.''

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