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on the Saguenay
Cape Trinity, 1880.
Oil on canvas, 90 x 127 cm.
Royal Canadian Academy of Arts diploma work, deposited by the artist, Toronto, 1880; 113. Lent by: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Sunrise on the Saguenay, Cape Trinity served as Lucius O'Brien's diploma piece, the submission that confirmed his membership in the Royal Canadian Academy whose holdings would later constitute the original collection of the National Gallery of Canada. O'Brien helped found the Ontario Society of Artists, and played an instrumental role in the fledgling Ontario School of Art (predecessor of the Ontario College of Art and Design) as its vice-president. This painting is a defining testament to a developing sense of Canadian nationalism and its articulation through landscape. During his time as contributor and artistic editor of Picturesque Canada, a popular serial promoting Canadian tourism, O'Brien became adept at creating light-filled landscapes in oil, and particularly in watercolour. This painting of a Quebec region known for its logging and tourism industries is typical in this regard. Nature and industry — note the smoke trailing from a distant steamboat — are held in mutual harmony.