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Description found in Archives

James Pattison Cockburn fonds [graphic material, tetxual records]  



Place of creation


184 watercolours and drawings; various dimensions.
29 prints: hand-coloured aquatints and engravings; various dimensions.
28 reproductions: photogravures after watercolours.
0.025 meters

Scope and content

The watercolours and drawings depict a wide variety of landscapes, cityscapes, canals, roads, sailing vessels, summer and winter activities, markets, buildings, and other subjects throughout Upper and Lower Canada in the period from 1822-1830, with the main focus being on the city of Quebec and its environs, although a large number of views of Niagara Falls and other picturesque scenes are also included. The print sets published of Canada in 1833 relate to Quebec and Niagara Falls. Cockburn also recorded many scenes of garrison life, of fortifications, and of methods of transport. The textual records relating to the artist James P. Cockburn, including the following: correspondence from his mother, Mary Cockburn, 1778-1779 to members of her family; correspondence from James P. Cockburn 1792-1824 to his mother, his wife, and his son; correspondence to James P. Cockburn, n.d., 1822-1835 from Lord Dalhousie, his wife, his son, S. Sullivan, John Jeken, Anna Kane, William IV's secretary, and the Duke of Wellington's secretary; marriage documents 1800; photocopies of genealogical material n.d., 1830; and a fourteen page manuscript "Falls of the Niagara".

Graphic (art)
90: Open
90: Open
Archival reference no.
Other accession no.
1989-255 X DAP
1989-256 X DAP
1989-257 X DAP
1989-258 X DAP
1989-259 DAP
1989-260 DAP
1989-261 DAP
1989-262 DAP
1989-263 DAP
1989-277 DAP
1989-279 DAP
1989-280 DAP
1989-282 DAP
1989-278 DAP
1934-283 PIC
1934-284 PIC
1992-485 X DAP
1937-461 PIC
1934-391 PIC
1937-536 PIC
1938-001 PIC
1947-005 PIC
1934-416 PIC
1989-260 X DAP
1989-259 X DAP
1989-261 X DAP
1989-262 X DAP
1937-537 PIC
1937-468 PIC
1937-469 PIC
1937-467 PIC
1937-466 PIC
1937-463 PIC
1937-465 PIC
1937-462 PIC
1937-464 PIC
1937-470 PIC
1937-472 PIC
1937-471 PIC
1989-263 X DAP
1934-403 PIC
1934-393 PIC
1934-392 PIC
1934-395 PIC
1937-539 PIC
1934-396 PIC
1934-398 PIC
1934-399 PIC
1934-400 PIC
1934-397 PIC
1937-538 PIC
1937-540 PIC
1934-404 PIC
1989-279 X DAP
1989-280 X DAP
1989-278 X DAP
1934-405 PIC
1938-004 PIC
1938-002 PIC
1934-401 PIC
1934-394 PIC
1989-277 X DAP
1989-282 X DAP
1934-402 PIC
1948-77 PIC

Biography / Administrative history

Born on March 18, 1779, in New York, James Pattison Cockburn was the son of John Cockburn (act. 1763-1809), Royal Artillery, and his wife Mary. He was named after his godfather, General James Pattison (1723-1805), under whom his father was serving. Cockburn entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, England, as a gentleman cadet on March 19, 1793, at which time Paul Sandby (1725-1809) was Drawing Master. Cockburn obtained a commission in the Royal Artillery as a 2nd lieutenant on January 27, 1796, and rose through the ranks, obtaining his final rank as major-general in November 1846. During most of his stay in Canada, he was a major, and then a lieutenant-colonel. He served as the director of the Royal Laboratory at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, from October 1838 until his retirement in November, 1846. He died at his residence in Woolwich, March 18, 1847. Cockburn was posted abroad to the Cape of Good Hope and East Indies 1795-1803, Denmark (siege of Copenhagen) 1807, and in Canada from November 1822 to June 1823, and from August 1826 to August 1832. From 1806 to 1817 he was stationed at Norwich and Colchester, and at Woolwich 1817-1822, and 1823-5. He travelled extensively on the Continent on leaves of absences. Cockburn was a prolific amateur artist and water-colourist, frequently with the intent to publish. Four sets of views were published after his work: the Siege of Copenhagen (Boydell & Co., 1807), Woolwich (Havell & Co., 1816), Quebec (a set of six prints, including Montmorency falls, published by Ackermann & Co., 1833) and Niagara Falls (a set of six prints, published by Ackermann & Co., 1833, and reprinted, with a new dedication, in 1857). Additionally an aerial map of the Scheldt expedition in August 1809 was published after his work. In 1918 the Fine Arts Co. of London, England, published a set of 18 photogravures after original watercolours by Cockburn then in private hands.

Cockburn is also listed as the author of six European travel guides, and the authorship of "Quebec and Its Environs: Being a Picturesque Guide to the Stranger", published in Quebec in 1831, has been attributed to him. Cockburn's European and Canadian views frequently reappeared in subsequent publications. Cockburn's Canadian water-colours and drawings date mostly to his second posting. The annual inspection tours of Upper and Lower Canada as Commander of the Royal Artillery in Canada gave him ample opportunity to sketch. His artistic endeavours brought him to the attention of a larger social circle; Lord and Lady Dalhousie, as respected patrons of the arts during their stay in the colony from 1819-1828, acquired at least two of his albums of views, while Lady Aylmer, wife of Lord Dalhousie's successor in office (1828-1835), described Colonel Cockburn as "one of the most accurate and Elegant artists I have ever met". Her journal, Recollections of Canada, 1831, is embellished with numerous Cockburn watercolours and drawings. Cockburn married Elizabeth Vansittart at the Cape of Good Hope in 1800; they had five sone and two daughters. Three of the sons followed military careers: John Henry Cockburn (1801-1837), James Cockburn (1810-1888), and Charles Vansittart Cockburn (1812-1896).

Additional information

Custodial history
The provenance of 354 drawings and watercolours by James Pattison Cockburn, originally bound into four volumes, can be traced to The Murray sale at Sotheby & Co. (London) of April 27, 1926, lot 118. In 1927, these volumes were offered for purchase to Dr. Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist, by the London book dealer Lawrence Kashnor of the Museum Book Store. A price tag of £ 2,000 was too large a sum for PAC alone to contemplate, so Doughty included the private collector W.C. Pitfield in the negotiations. In 1928, an agreement was reached when both Doughty and Pitfield purchased many of the watercolours. The albums were broken down and dispersed but fortunately a list of the items organized by their original sequence was made (RG 37, volume 298, J.P. Cockburn file). From this list it is readily apparent that the Cockburn drawings and watercolours in the Archives collection, and at other institutions (ROM, NGC) were once mounted in the albums. Other watercolours from the albums were subsequently sold to W. H. Coverdale, from whom LAC acquired 61 watercolours and drawings in 1970, and to other private collectors, with many of these subsequently entering LAC'S holdings in more recent years (e.g. The Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana, which contained at least 65 watercolours and drawings by Cockburn, as well as numerous prints after Cockburn). The Cockburn-Wiggin album, containing 44 watercolours and drawings by Cockburn, was acquired from London dealer Frank Sabin in 1948. Other items were acquired through other individuals, families, or dealers over the past several decades. The papers were received by the London Office of NA in 1989 from a great-great-granddaughter of James P. Cockburn, Mary Cockburn of London, England.


Other system control no.

Related control no.

1. 1934-283 PIC
2. 1934-284 PIC
3. 1934-391 PIC
4. 1934-416 PIC
5. 1937-461 PIC
6. 1937-536 PIC
7. 1938-001 PIC
8. 1948-077 PIC
9. 1953-101 PIC
10. 1989-255 X DAP
11. 1989-256 X DAP
12. 1989-257 X DAP
13. 1989-258 X DAP
14. 1989-259 DAP
15. 1989-261 DAP
16. 1989-262 DAP
17. 1989-263 DAP
18. 1989-277 DAP
19. 1989-279 DAP
20. 1989-280 DAP
21. 1989-282 DAP
22. 119-020051-1