This painting shows three anchored ships profiled against a blue sky. Several figures are at work on the ship in the foreground, while two men and a woman converse on the wharf.

Henry Sandham

(Montréal 1842 – London, England, 1910)


Evening on the Wharf, or Montreal Harbour


Oil on canvas

45.8 x 57.5 cm

Gift of Mrs. J. Campbell Merrett, 1999

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1999.10

Photo: MMFA, Brian Merrett 

Evening on the Wharf, or Montreal Harbour, shows a typical view of the port of Montréal, which was already an economic hub playing a decisive role in Canada’s history at the time. The scene teems with details of port activity. The influence of photography, then rapidly gaining popularity, is clear in Henry Sandham’s attention to detail and open composition. In fact, the strong diagonal created by the ship in the right foreground recalls the unusual and sometimes accidental effects produced by photographic framing. Other Canadian artists were inspired by the port of Montréal, including the painter Adrien Hébert many years later.

Best known as an illustrator, the Montréal artist Henry Sandham was also proficient in watercolours, oils and photography, which he learned with William Notman. He specialized in large composite photographs, and it was likely his experience as a photographer and his fondness for illustration that led him to paint cityscapes filled with small anecdotal scenes. Sandham was not the only artist to depict picturesque Montréal. A few years later, the painter Alfred Boisseau portrayed the hustle and bustle of Place d’Armes.



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