This particular painting, which depicts bison being directed into a corral for slaughter, was one of fourteen that Paul Kane (1810–1871) produced for Sir George Simpson, governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), who authorized and aided Kane’s travel through HBC territory. Simpson intended to display the paintings in a room he was designing as a “museum of Indian curiosities” and seems to have had a vested interest in the images Kane produced for him. Curiously, Kane’s field journal mentions nothing of his witnessing the actual hunt, just the pound containing the aftermath of a previous slaughter. The artist may well have relied on oral accounts of the event.


Paul Kane, The Buffalo Pound, c.1846–1849

Paul Kane, The Buffalo Pound, c.1846–1849

Oil on paperboard, 21.9 x 35 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

Simpson was not shy about directing Kane on subject matter, advising him that the bison should be depicted in profile so as to “give a better idea of the appearance of the animals.” The Buffalo Pound speaks as much to issues of patronage as it does to Kane’s approach to a subject that was of great interest to him.


This Spotlight is excerpted from Paul Kane: Life & Work by Arlene Gehmacher.

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