Recently discovered paintings and journal entries offer a remarkable perspective on the Frog Lake Massacre and the Northwest Rebellion.
Recently uncovered paintings offer a remarkable perspective on the Frog Lake Massacre and the Northwest Rebellion.
ATROVE OF RECENTLY DISCOVERED PAINTINGS OFFERS A compelling view of one of the most contentious moments in Canadian history — the Northwest Rebellion of 1885. During that incident, the Canadian government sent military forces to the North-West Territories to quell an “uprising” of Métis and Aboriginal peoples, led in part by Louis Riel. To the Indigenous peoples of the region, armed resistance was a legitimate response to settler encroachment on their traditional territories.
Part of the conflict was captured on canvas by Canadian painter Francis Fitz Roy Dixon. Born in Batticaloa, Ceylon, Dixon grew up with the legacy of a grandfather who was an officer in the British colonial administration. Colonel Charles George Dixon died during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 when Francis was a baby.
Appointed a justice of the peace in what is now Manitoba in 1884, Fitz Roy Dixon found himself on the edge of a festering conflict that was remarkably similar to his family’s experiences in colonial India.
Dixon painted prolifically, having been trained at the Royal College of Art in England in the early 1870s. But most of his work did not see the light of day until recently. A chance discovery on an Internet auction site about a year ago led to the finding of more than seventy paintings, plus letters and other materials. Included are his impressions of the 1885 Frog Lake Massacre, in which nine settlers were killed.
So little of Dixon’s work is in the public domain that scholars and collectors have paid it scant attention. Fifteen or so of his paintings can be found in the Royal Ontario Museum, Library and Archives of Canada, the Manitoba Provincial Archives, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and a private collection or two. As a result of the Internet offering, some fortuitous circumstances, and contact with descendants, Dixon’s art, sketch books, and related archival materials have come to light. Research is underway for a book and exhibition on his life and art.
See more paintings at CanadasHistory.ca/FitzRoyDixon