Horatio Waker, by Edmond Dyonnet
Horatio Walker, the son a timber merchant was born in Listowel in Ontario in 1858. He first visited Quebec in 1870 with his father. He was mainly self-taught in painting. He went to Toronto in 1873 and joined the photographic studio of Notman, working with John A. Fraser and R.F. Gagen. In 1876 he left Canada to work in several American cities before setting up a studio in New York in 1878. He made a walking trip from Montreal to Quebec in 1880. He travelled in Europe, where he was influenced by the Barbizon painters.
At the turn of the 20th century, Horatio Walker was on his way to becoming the most celebrated Canadian-born painter of his time, and his work was well represented in American museum collections. Although he spent his winters in New York City, he summered on Île d’Orléans, east of Quebec City, where he continued to be enchanted by the daily rituals of the agricultural community. There, as he said, he tried “to paint the poetry, the easy joys and the hard daily work of rural life”. In 1883, he settled at Sainte-Petronille, Île d’Orléans, where he painted for the rest of his life, sending most of his pictures to New York for sale.
He died on the Île d’Orléans in 1938.
Walker’s glorification of the hardships of agricultural life is sometimes made dramatic.
His love for his subject was fuelled by the example of 19th-century French painter Jean-François Millet, whose sympathetic renderings of peasant life Walker greatly admired.
Walker became a Royal Canadian Artist in 1918.
Source: Anne Newlands, Canadian art from its beginnings to 2000, Firefly books, Canada, 2000; R.H Hubbard and J.R Ostiguy, Trois cent ans d’art canadien, Ottawa, Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, 1967