Artistic representations of the vast Canadian landscape have held a special fondness in the hearts of Canadians since early European contact. The tradition has been so enduring that even after several hundred years, landscape painting is still as intrinsic to the identify of Canada as it has ever been. While modes of representation have changed drastically, the landscape genre has continued to hold a dominant place in the Canadian art market coast to coast. So what are the roots of this tradition and why has it been so pervasive throughout Canada’s past?
The first European representations of the land in Canada were completed by topographers of the British army. Under an imperial Britain with ambitions of territorial conquest, artists produced glorified images of explorations and the process of settlement against the background of an ever-present wilderness. Through the documentation and presentation of the Canadian landscape, Europeans were laying claim to the land and legitimizing their exploration and possession of North American territories. In the eyes of an imperial audience back home, the land was an unexploited resource, ripe for conquest and colonization.