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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Three Original Watercolors by William Armstrong, an Irish born artist who emigrated to Canada in 1851


The son of a Royal Irish Artillery officer, William Armstrong studied art in Dublin and served his apprenticeship as an engineer on the Irish and English railways before emigrating to Toronto in 1851. He was partner in the firm of Armstrong, Beer, & Hine Civil Engineers, Draughtsman and photographers.

Armstrong traveled to Lake Superior in 1859 and from then on took advantage of surveying work to travel and sketch extensively in lands then unsettled by Europeans. He took particular interest in the native populations of the northern plains, such as the Assiniboin and the Sioux, glimpsed in the years immediately prior to their confinement to reservations.  Fort William provided him with the opportunity to document the evolving commerce of the area.   The Assiniboin natives had an important role in the local commerce - the fur trade - for it was their technology, especially the birch bark canoe and snowshoe, which enabled the Europeans to succeed.

Armstrong's most sought after watercolors are those which he worked up from sketches completed during his travels in 1859 to Fort William (now the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada).  Many of these watercolors were presented to the Prince of Wales on his visit to Toronto in September 1860.  The drawings in the Royal Collection, housed at Windsor Castle, include similar subjects to the present, suggesting the present watercolors also take their subjects from sketches taken in 1859 between Lake Superior and Winnipeg.

Armstrong's works can be found in many prominent collections worldwide,  most notably the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, Thunder Bay Historical Museum, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Toronto Public Library, the National Archives of Canada, the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery in Alberta and the Harvard University Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


 William Armstrong
Buffalo Hunters. Halt on Plains
Watercolor with bodycolor on paper
Paper size: 17 7/8” x 22 3/4”
Signed and dated l.r.: Armstrong 62
$90,000.

 William Armstrong
Drying Buffalo Meat, White horse plains
Watercolor with bodycolor on paper
Paper size: 17 5/8” x 22 1/2”
Signed l.r.: Armstrong; monogram on the wagon l.l.: WA
$90,000.

 William Armstrong
A Wagon Train Crossing the Plains
Colored chalks and watercolor on paper
Paper size: 18” x 27 3/8”
$90,000.

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