In the foreground, a peaceful river is bordered by trees in autumn colours. Four figures in groups of two appear on the right bank. In the background, mountains with rounded peaks fill the horizon beneath a cloudy sky.

Allan Edson

(Stanbridge, Quebec, 1846 – Glen Sutton, Quebec, 1888)


Automne sur la rivière Yamaska, rang Sutton

[Autumn on the Yamaska River]


Oil on canvas

75.5 x 122 cm

Purchased in 1948

Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec collection, 1948.107

Photo: MNBAQ, Patrick Altman

Automne sur la rivière Yamaska, rang Sutton [Autumn on the Yamaska River] presents a landscape interpreted in a romantic, contemplative manner. The scene is bathed in soft, warm light. In Edson’s typical style, nature is rendered with great attention to the foreground details, which gradually fade as a result of atmospheric perspective. The presence of two tiny figures fishing on the bank heightens the impression of nature as both grandiose and intimate. Edson’s work illustrates how, by celebrating Canada’s vast expanses, landscape painting contributed to shaping a national discourse.

Trained initially in Montréal under the African-American painter Robert Scott Duncanson and then during stays in England and France, the painter Allan Edson is known for landscapes of his native Eastern Townships, for which he adapted the Hudson River School style. Edson was active in the then burgeoning art milieu as a member of such professional organizations as the Ontario Society of Artists. At the time of his death, he was considered the best landscape artist born in Canada.



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Born to a Scottish-Canadian father and an African-American mother, Robert Scott Duncanson was the first African-American artist to earn widespread acclaim during his lifetime. To escape the turmoil of the Civil War, he settled in Montréal from 1863 to 1865. His works influenced many Canadian landscapists, including Allan Edson. In the tradition of the Hudson River School, Duncanson paid special attention to atmospheric effects, as in Owl’s Head Mountain. In this painting, the muted light of the rising sun that colours the sky in pastel tones reflects as if mirrored on the still water of the lake.

Robert Scott Duncanson

(Fayette, New York, 1821 – Detroit, Michigan, 1872)


Owl’s Head Mountain


Oil on canvas

45.7 x 91.7 cm

Purchased in 1978

National Gallery of Canada, 18982

Photo: National Gallery of Canada