Paul Keane


Paul Kane2


One of Canada’s most famous sons, the artist Paul Kane, was born here in Mallow His father (Michael Kane) was English and had served in the army during the Napoleonic Wars. While in the army, he married a Frances Loach of Mallow. On leaving the army, they rented a house in the town of Fermoy but after a year, they moved back to Mallow. During this time they had eight children - James 1799, Mary 1801, Julia 1803, Frederick 1806, Oliver 1807, Paul 1810, Charlott 1811, and Harriet 1813.

Paul was born in what was most likely the shop at the corner of St. James’ Avenue and the main street, not more than ten meters away from the birth place of William O’Brien, on the 3rd September 1810, He was baptized in St. Anne’s Church in Mallow. The baptism took place on the 10th September 1810. In the baptismal record, the name entered was Keane. This was accordance with the local pronunciation at the time. The font from St. Anne’s is now in St. James’ and you can still see it to this day.

When Kane was nine, he and his family immigrated to Toronto (then named “York”) Canada. In the late 1820s he was working as a decorative furniture painter in Toronto and later in Cobourg, he studied painting and made his living as an itinerant portrait painter. Kane travelled around Europe studying the old masters, to broaden his skill in the use of colour in cities like Florence, London, Naples, Rome and Venice.

After four years in Europe he met the American artist George Catlin, Kane was 32 years of age this was in 1842. Between 1830-1836, George Catlin (1796-1872) had painted and recorded the culture of 48 different Native tribes of the American Great Plains. Kane was inspired to also assemble a visual record of aboriginal peoples.

Paul Kane 1  c. 1850

circa 1850


“On my return to Canada from the continent of Europe, where I had passed nearly four years in studying my profession as a painter, I determined to devote whatever talents and proficiency I possessed to the painting of a series of pictures illustrative of the North American Indians and scenery.” - Paul Kane, preface to Wanderings of an artist among the Indians of North America (1859).

In 1845, Kane began to record the aboriginal ways of life of the native people of Canada. Over the next three years he travelled, painting (but mostly drawing) the peoples he saw such as the Ojibwa. His aims were to try to paint or draw as many of the native tribes as possible. Kane witnessed one of the last great buffalo hunts along the Manitoba-Dakota border. Almost all of Kane’s paintings that we see today are from drawing or sketches, which he painted in his studio. One of these paintings is “Assiniboine Hunting Buffalo” (c. 1851-1856) in the style most used by the artist for such paintings.

A meeting with Sir George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company secured for him an extensive expedition. He was granted free board, lodging and transportation in Company territory (one quarter of North America roughly!) The Company and Simpson commissioned a dozen sketches of the life and ways of the Native Americans, for Simpson’s personal museum of “Indian curiosities.”

In 1853, Kane married Harriet Clench of Cobourg. He was 44 years old. They had four children and lived in Toronto; his travelling was over by this time. Several of his paintings were exhibited at the 1855 World Fair in Paris to wide acclaim.

A book of Kane’s sketches and journals was published with great success in 1859. This was “Wanderings of an artist among the Indians of North America”. Some of Paul Kane’s painting can be seen in the Hudson’s Bay Company head offices, but most of Paul Kane’s work is in the National Gallery of Canada in Toronto.

Paul Kane died suddenly on the 20th February 1871 at only 61 years of age and is buried in Toronto’s St. James Cemetery.

 Paul Kane 3

The Picture of Paul Kane is housed in Canada’s N.D. Private Collection