Painting in Québec, 1820-1850, Musée du Québec, Québec, 1992, pp. 486-488 for closely related works by Todd depicting the ice cone at Montmorency Falls, all circa 1840-1850.
The Montmorency ice cone has long been celebrated by artists. As early as 1785, James Peachy made an aquatint of it. Joseph Legaré and James Pattison Cockburn painted the falls and the cone soon afterwards. In the 19th century, both Joseph Dynes and Cornelius Krieghoff painted the falls; Krieghoff came back to it several times in different seasons. Even an itinerant Italian painter, Guido Carmignani, rendered the falls on a huge canvas, in the summer of 1869, adding a couple of Italian hunters with their dogs as a point of interest.
Montmorency Falls, near Quebec City, is a major attraction for tourists in all seasons. Although the volume of water pouring down and into the St. Lawrence River is not great, the cliff over which it falls is more than a hundred feet higher than Niagara Falls. But when winter comes and the ice cone forms, Montmorency becomes both more beautiful and even more awesome. When the river below the falls freezes, the ice becomes a support for the freezing spray the falls generates, and this gradually builds up the ice cone, in some years to an astounding height. This natural spectacle became a popular for skating, racing along the ice on the river, and tobogganing down the ice cone.
Todd arrived in Quebec City in 1834, advertising his qualifications as a 'house, sign, carriage and sleigh artist.' He also took advantage of the natural splendour of Montmorency Falls and painted at least six versions of this remarkable site, including those works now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario and Power Corporation of Canada.
In this painting, Todd uses the cone as a dramatic backdrop for the season's activities. The two horses and sleigh in the foreground could have been commissioned by an army officer who wanted a record of his Canadian sojourn (this painting was once part of a collection in Scotland). Todd may have completed the background first and then added the figures pertaining to his commission later. Todd's training as a decorative artist shows in his attention to minute details and in the overall precision with which this work was painted.
Todd moved to Toronto from Quebec City in 1853, where he remained until his death in 1866.
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