About Paul Kane

Paul Kane’s artwork is among the earliest record of life in the Northwest before white settlement. His romantic oil paintings along with the best-selling book about his travels influenced domestic and international perceptions of North American Aboriginal people into the 20th century. Today his pictures of early native life are used to illustrate history in books, films and at historic sites. While his artwork is familiar, Kane himself is not well known.

The Irish-born Paul Kane (1810-1871) remains one of the most frequently reproduced painters, past or present. Paul Kane’s two-and-a-half year sketching trip across thousands of miles of difficult frontier is still unequaled by any other artist on the continent. In recent years, Paul Kane has been identified as one of the most important ethnological artists of nineteenth-century North America. This group includes Kane’s U.S. mentor, George Catlin, along with Charles Bird King, Karl Bodmer and John Mix Stanley.

Paul Kane was one of the first "tourists" — as opposed to explorer, trapper or surveyor — to travel the northern fur-trade route from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean. He was also the first Canadian painter to be credited with a best-selling book, Wanderings of an Artist Among the Indians of North America. Published in London in 1859, this popular travelogue was translated into French, Danish and German editions.