CineFocus Canada Visions from the Wilderness: The Art of Paul Kane. Dcoumentary by CineFocus Canada

Paul Kane's work acknowledged the aboriginal foundations of North American culture 150 years ago. Visions from the Wilderness: The Art of Paul Kane examines his insight.




Paul Kane



  This one-hour documentary profiles the fascinating and paradoxical life of North American landscape and portrait artist, Paul Kane. A mix of art, history, and exploration, Visions from the Wilderness: The Art of Paul Kane examines the conflicting opinions about the historic and artistic value of Kane’s artwork. Kane travelled a continent to document a changing world, but then succumbed to the tastes of his audience when presenting his final work. Through his story, the documentary reveals the role artists play in relaying our history, and how their art is shaped by the cultural influences of their day.

In 1846, Paul Kane hitched a ride west, via the fur-trade brigades to document what he believed to be the last remains of Native North American life "untainted" by European influence. However, when Kane returned to his Toronto studio in 1848, he largely embraced the Eurocentric idea of the "Noble Savage" in both the romantic paintings he produced and the book he published about his travels. By exploring the life and work of Paul Kane, the documentary shows how his art was shaped by his mentors, his patrons and his passion.

Narrated by the acclaimed North American native actor, Tantoo Cardinal (Dances with Wolves), the documentary brings to life Paul Kane’s epic journey and his later struggle as a society artist using readings from his published book juxtaposed with dialogue from the "real" Paul Kane. This narrative is illustrated with spectacular scenics, dramatic re-creations, Kane’s romantic oil paintings and the authentic pieces Kane sketched in the field. Inter-woven are interviews and personal stories from a variety of people along Kane's route including curators, historians, artists, and descendants of his own family and the native people he sketched and painted.

View clip of documentary.

Producer/Director: John Bessai
Co-Producer/Editor: Joan Prowse
Executive Producer: Richard Nielsen
Written by: Joan Prowse and John Bessai

A CineFocus Canada Production produced in association with Bravo! NewStyleArtsChannel, APTN (Aboriginal People’s Television Network), Canadian Learning Television, SCN, Knowledge Network and the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund. With the participation of the Canadian Television Fund and Telefilm Canada.

In English and French language versions
For more information and to order a videotape contact CineFocus Canada.

Artwork courtesy: Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas