(Paisley, Scotland, 1826 – Montréal 1891)
Skating Carnival, Victoria Rink, Montréal, QC
Painted composite photograph on album paper
137 x 176 cm
Gift of Charles Frederick Notman
McCord Museum, N-0000.116.21.1
Skating Carnival, Victoria Rink, Montréal, QC portrays the fancy-dress skating event held in honour of Prince Arthur (1850-1942), then in Montréal for military training. In those days, photography required an exposure time that was too long to clearly capture a crowd of this size in a single shot. So, William Notman photographed 150 people in their costumes one by one in his studio. The portraits were assembled on a drawn background to create a composite image, which was then re-photographed and hand-painted. This composite photograph is the first of a long series of technical feats that made the Notman Studio famous.
In 1856, shortly after arriving in Montréal, Scottish-born William Notman opened a photography studio, and before long, the business was thriving. Using his networking skills, the enterprising photographer made his establishment a gathering place for Montréal’s elite. He saw photographs as aesthetic objects, and the studio became a training ground for many young artists, like Henry Sandham, who painted backdrops and added colour to portraits. Notman’s remarkable composite photos were extremely popular with the public. The first Canadian photographer to earn an international reputation, he opened franchised studios all across Canada and in the United States.
690 Sherbrooke Street West
Montréal (Quebec), H3A 1E9
A year before creating the composite skating-carnival photograph, William Notman produced a portrait of Prince Arthur made famous by its widely distributed reproduction. The portrait was published on the cover of the Canadian Illustrated News, which had a circulation of 10,000, using the revolutionary halftone printing process. Invented by the Quebec engraver and photomechanical reproduction pioneer William Augustus Leggo (1830-1915), the process consisted of printing a grid of different sized dots to create shades of grey. The portrait of Prince Arthur was the first halftone photograph ever to appear in a periodical – a Canadian technological feat.