With the recent purchase of Giant’s Castle Mountain: A. L. Fortune Farm, Enderby, BC Oct 6, 1882, the Royal BC Museum now holds the greatest number and most significant of Grafton Tyler Brown’s Canadian works in the world.
“We hope that the painting’s subject matter and history will lead to significant, perhaps challenging, conversations about the history of settlers in BC — including immigrants like Brown,” said Prof. Jack Lohman, CEO of the Royal BC Museum. “It’s a focal point for discussing ethnicity and identity, and also allows us probe the relationship between landscape paintings, nature and the presence of humans.”
Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918) was a painter, lithographer and cartographer, the first African American artist to create works depicting the Pacific Northwest, California and British Columbia.
In 1883, he made 22 paintings of BC in his Victoria studio, based on drawings made during a geological survey into the southern Interior of the province. Giant’s Castle Mountain (the Enderby Cliffs) is one such product of the expedition.
The painting depicts Fortune’s farmstead on the edge of a forest, the agrarian foreground dwarfed by a looming mountain.
Dr. John Lutz of the University of Victoria, a Brown authority, has deemed this work the most important of Brown’s B.C. paintings.
Lutz provides historical context for Fortune’s ranch, noting that Fortune was “a major historical figure in the Okanagan as well as one of the Overlanders in1862.” The Overlanders were a group of adventurers who walked from the Prairies—over the Rocky Mountains—to the Cariboo goldfields.
Fortune was one of the first Caucasian settlers in the North Okanagan region to pre-empt land near what became Enderby. (“Pre-emption” was a method of acquiring provincial Crown land for settlement and agriculture; the BC Archives holds a research guide about BC pre-emption records)
The BC Archives already holds in its collection Brown’s BC catalogue and a rare portrait. Only 10 of Brown’s other Canadian works are accounted for in public and private collections.
The Royal BC Museum purchased the painting in March, 2018, for $44,000 from Uno Langmann Fine Art Ltd., with funds from the Royal BC Museum Foundation and additional financial support from the Friends of the BC Archives.
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