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Description found in Archives
Series consists of
Series part of
Place of creation
1 sketchbook: 65 watercolours; 21.0 x 13.0 cm.
Language of material
Scope and content
Two sketchbooks and four single-sheet watercolours documenting R.N. Captain John Franklin's second overland expedition to the Canadian Arctic in 1825-1827. The first sketchbook documents the expedition's journey from New York state in March 1825 to its winter base at Fort Franklin on Great Bear Lake, along the routes of fur traders, a journey chronicled by this sketchbook, in which George Back took every opportunity to make pencil sketches of memorable views and events. After reaching Fort Franklin on August 11, 1825, Back used the next ten months to watercolour the sketches he had made en route. He also painted a number of portraits and views in and around Fort Franklin. Just three days before the expedition set out on the second stage of the journey to the Arctic coast, Back evidently completed this sketchbook, inscribing the title page with the date "June 21st, 1826". In conjunction with the sketchbook, Back also maintained a daily journal, rough and fair copies of which are now on deposit at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England. Copies of these journals are available under certain restrictions on LAC microfilm (A-820 and A-821, respectively). Four views from this sketchbook, including the two masterpieces "Portage La Lache between Lake La Loche and the Clearwater River, July 16, 1825" and "Winter View of Fort Franklin from the Little Lake" done in the winter of 1825-1826, were selected for illustration in Franklin's "Narrative of a Second Expedition...." published in London by John Murray, 1828. The second of the two sketchbooks documenting John Franklin's overland expedition to the Canadian Arctic in 1825-1827, includes three watercolour sketches which may have been done in the spring of 1826. However, most of the sketches document the expedition after June 24, 1826. On this date, Franklin and Back left their winter base and descended the Mackenzie River to its mouth, where they embarked in two specially constructed boats, the Lion and the Reliance, to chart the unknown Arctic coast westward to Icy Cape, Alaska. Forty-six pencil sketches document this unsuccessful mission which was forced to turn back at Return Reef because of heavy ice blocking its route. Back was unable to produce colour sketches during the voyage, but he did take quick pencil sketches, with detailed colour notes. A separate set of watercolour versions were later produced, four of which (Acc. Nos. 1955-103, 1955-104, 1955-105, and 1955-106) belong to LAC, and two of which belong to the National Gallery of Canada (NGC acc. nos. 8954 and 8957). Seventeen of the sketches formed the basis for engravings published in Franklin's "Narrative of a Second Expedition...." published in London by John Murray in 1828. In conjunction with the second sketchbook, Back maintained a journal, rough and fair copies of which are now on deposit at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England. Copies of these journals are available under certain restrictions on LAC microfilm (A-820 and A-821 respectively). Four more watercolours after these sketchbook drawings are known but are not in the LAC's holdings. Records of their sale at various auctions are noted in the Archives Canada Microfiche Series 12 and 13 (Supply and Services Canada, 1980). These are two of five separate sketchbooks owned by Library and Archives Canada done by George Back during various Arctic explorations (two sketchbooks from the 1819-1822 expedition; two sketchbooks from the 1825-1827 expedition, and one sketchbook from the 1833-1835 expedition). LAC also owns single-sheet watercolours from various sources, as well as many single-sheet prints.
Conditions of access
Physical access to the sketchbooks is re
stricted dur to fragility. please consult an art archivist or art custodian.
Creator / Provenance
Citation / reference note
Discovery and Exploration - 1825-1827.
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