This black-and-white photograph shows a jumbled heap of ice slabs in the foreground. Buildings in Montréal’s harbour appear in the background.

Alexander Henderson

(Edinburgh, Scotland, 1831– Montréal 1913)


Quais de Montréal en hiver, Montréal, QC

[Montreal Wharves in Winter, QC]

about 1865-1875

Silver salts on paper mounted on card – Albumen process

16 x 21 cm

Gift of Miss E. Dorothy Benson

McCord Museum, MP-0000.1452.50

The photograph Quais de Montréal en hiver, Montréal, Qc [Montreal Wharves in Winter, Qc] shows an ice jam in the port of Montréal. The contrast of the blacks and whites, the fractured lines of the ice slabs and their cast shadows create an almost abstract study of light. In this sense, Alexander Henderson’s photograph is not unlike the modern compositions of the photographer Jules-Ernest LivernoisQuais de Montréal en hiver was clearly known in its day, since it was copied by an American artist, Frederic B. Schell, in the illustrated book Picturesque Canada (1882).

Alexander Henderson, born in Scotland, opened a photography studio in Montréal in 1866. His works were very popular, especially his Romantic landscapes representing human figures amid the power of nature. Henderson is often compared to his colleague William Notman, who produced portraits in studio using a great variety of backdrops and costumes. After several years spent documenting railroad bridges from coast to coast, Henderson was hired to manage Canadian Pacific Railway’s photography department in 1892.


690 Sherbrooke Street West
Montréal (Quebec), H3A 1E9
514 398-7100 »
Google Maps »

The image in the upper area of this print by James Louderbach, after a drawing by Frederic B. Schell, is based on the photograph Quais de Montréal en hiver [Montreal Wharves in Winter], by Alexander Henderson. The image at the bottom was strongly inspired by another Henderson photograph, Canotage sur les glaces du Saint-Laurent [Canoe on the St. Lawrence in Winter] (about 1870), now in the collection of Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

Frederic B. Schell

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1838 – Chicago, Illinois, 1902)

James W. Louderbach

(active in the mid-19th century)


Montreal Winter Scene

about 1882

Wood engraving

George Monro Grant and Lucius R. O’Brien, Picturesque Canada: the country as it was and is, Toronto, Art Publishing Co., Vol. 1, 1882, p. 135

Special collections, Bibliothèque des arts de l’UQAM