Thursday, April 25, 2013

Notman's Victoria Skating Carnival April 25, 1870

William Notman's first composite photograph was of the Skating Carnival at Victoria Rink held on March 1, 1870, in honour of Prince Arthur, the youngest son of Queen Victoria. It received it's first public viewing today, April 25, in 1870.


This Victoria Rink Skating Festival was the first of Notman’s famous composite scenes. He’d take individual photos of a hundred or more people (for this skating party he took 150 individual photos) and then he’d put them into a painted composite scene – sort of a multi-media combination of photography and painting. For this scene he put an invitation notice in the newspaper for people to come in their masquerade dress and with their skates.
     Everything always looks so formal, so polite to me when I look at pictures from the past, and it gives one a skewed picture of how things really were. The skating party can’t have been so perfect – the McCord Museum cites the Montreal Gazette on April 26, 1876 [seems likely that date is supposed to be 1870] congratulating Notman for leaving out "the monstrosities and idiocies of bad taste, which never should have disfigured the Fancy Dress Assembly."
    Parties will always be parties.
Prince Arthur (Thunder Bay was originally called Port Arthur after Prince Arthur) later became the HRH Duke of Connaught - and the Governor General of Canada from 1911 to 1916. He was the first member of the Royal family to be a G. G. Prince Arthur is on the bottom left, towards the centre of the photo.
     Prince Arthur was only 20 at the time and was stationed in Montreal with the Rifle Brigade.
Maybe the big skating party held in his honour was the inspiration for his daughter Princess Patricia’s own elaborate skating parties in Ottawa when they lived in Rideau Hall 41 years later. She also had people dress up in the dress of different nations – a sort of fancy dress ball.  
     The Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was named after his daughter Patricia.
You can find more on the Governors Generals here

William Notman learned all he knew about photography after he’d moved from Scotland to Montreal in 1856. He became one of the most famous photographers in the world – and he was certainly an audacious businessman. He’s the one who ended up taking all the photographs of the Fathers of Confederation (and their unmarried daughters and wives who they’d brought along) at the Confederation talks in Quebec in October, 1864. He managed to get the commission for photographing the making of the Victoria Bridge in 1859, and he became Queen Victoria’s official photographer. There’s lots more on Elaine Kalman Nave’s CBC Idea’s Podcast  here.

The McCord Museum in Montreal also has an immense collection of his work and everything else Notman. I'll get to see it all for myself this May - searching for his photographs of my lost 'daughters of Confederation. See more on the daughters of Confederation

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