The occasion of a fancy dress skating carnival in the Victoria Rink inspired his first large production in 1870. This event was staged in honour of Prince Arthur, who, as an officer in training with the Rifle Brigade, was stationed in Montreal. Notman declared his intention of making a record of the event, and invited those who planned to participate in the skating carnival to bring their costumes and skates to the studio and have their portraits taken for a composite photograph. One hundred and fifty people came in answer to the advertisement to don their brightly coloured costumes representing various themes and epochs. They included Scottish couples in Highland costume, Elizabethan ladies and courtiers, several soldiers and sailors, a voyageur, a pilgrim father, "Diana", goddess of the hunt, with bow and arrows, a scattering of young women in peasant costumes, a woman dressed as Night, another as the morning star, a man arrayed as a counter bass, another as a giant head and an "Indian" who appears to be aiming his arrow at a woman smoking a cigar.
The occasion of a fancy dress skating carnival in the Victoria Rink inspired his first large production in 1870. This event was staged in honour of Prince Arthur, who, as an officer in training with the Rifle Brigade, was stationed in Montreal. Notman declared his intention of making a record of the event, and invited those who planned to participate in the skating carnival to bring their costumes and skates to the studio and have their portraits taken for a composite photograph. One hundred and fifty people came in answer to the advertisement to don their brightly coloured costumes representing various themes and epochs. They included Scottish couples in Highland costume, Elizabethan ladies and courtiers, several soldiers and sailors, a voyageur, a pilgrim father, "Diana", goddess of the hunt, with bow and arrows, a scattering of young women in peasant costumes, a woman dressed as Night, another as the morning star, a man arrayed as a counter bass, another as a giant head and an "Indian" who appears to be aiming his arrow at a woman smoking a cigar.

© The McCord Museum of Canadian History, 2005. All rights reserved.

Missie Hattie Atwater on Skates

Missie Hattie Atwater on skates, Montreal, QC, 1869-70

William Notman
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
1869 - 1870
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
8 x 5 cm
I-43635.1
© McCord Museum


Notman's advertisement, published in The Gazette, February 25, 1870, reads:

BLEURY STREET, FEBRUARY, 1870.

The approaching CARNIVAL at the Skating rink is likely to be one of more than ordinary interest from the fact that His Royal Highness Prince Arthur is expected to grace the occasion with his presence.

I have therefore selected this opportunity as one offering many advantages, to carry out what has long been my intention; To get up an effective PICTURE OF THE RINK, for which purpose I beg to request that you will give me an early sitting, before or as soon after the event as possible, in the Costume you intend to use on the occasion.

The Directors have kindly consented to give me every facility in their power, so as to ensure a successful Picture.

Your obedient servant,
WILLIAM NOTMAN.
Notman's advertisement, published in The Gazette, February 25, 1870, reads:

BLEURY STREET, FEBRUARY, 1870.

The approaching CARNIVAL at the Skating rink is likely to be one of more than ordinary interest from the fact that His Royal Highness Prince Arthur is expected to grace the occasion with his presence.

I have therefore selected this opportunity as one offering many advantages, to carry out what has long been my intention; To get up an effective PICTURE OF THE RINK, for which purpose I beg to request that you will give me an early sitting, before or as soon after the event as possible, in the Costume you intend to use on the occasion.

The Directors have kindly consented to give me every facility in their power, so as to ensure a successful Picture.

Your obedient servant,
WILLIAM NOTMAN.

© McCord Museum

Numbered Key for the Skating Carnival Composite

Numbered key for the Skating Carnival composite of 1870, copied 1900-30

William Notman
Gift of Mr. Charles Frederick Notman
1900 - 1930
Silver salts on film - Gelatin silver process
20 x 25 cm
N-0000.68.2
© McCord Museum


On completion of this composite photograph, measuring 20 x 27 1/2 inches, Notman had his staff produce a much larger coloured version as well, measuring 37 1/2 x 53 1/2 inches. By use of a solar enlarger (an apparatus using sunlight as a light source), the image was projected on to a large canvas that had previously been coated with light-sensitive photographic emulsion. During the necessary very long exposure the image gradually appeared on the emulsified canvas. After fixing, washing, and drying, the canvas was attached to a wooden stretcher, of the type used for oil paintings. The image was then coloured in oil by Notman’s two most talented artists of that period, Henry Sandham1, who had been on staff since about 1860 and was now at age thirty head of the art department, and Edward Sharpe, a twenty-year-old of immense talent just hired the previous year. Placed in an ornate gold frame with glass to protect it, this large coloured version of the skating carnival was on display in the Notman Studio for sixty-five years. In 1955 it was given by Charles Notman (William’s youngest son) to McGill University and now, still in near-new condition, it is one of the Read More
On completion of this composite photograph, measuring 20 x 27 1/2 inches, Notman had his staff produce a much larger coloured version as well, measuring 37 1/2 x 53 1/2 inches. By use of a solar enlarger (an apparatus using sunlight as a light source), the image was projected on to a large canvas that had previously been coated with light-sensitive photographic emulsion. During the necessary very long exposure the image gradually appeared on the emulsified canvas. After fixing, washing, and drying, the canvas was attached to a wooden stretcher, of the type used for oil paintings. The image was then coloured in oil by Notman’s two most talented artists of that period, Henry Sandham1, who had been on staff since about 1860 and was now at age thirty head of the art department, and Edward Sharpe, a twenty-year-old of immense talent just hired the previous year. Placed in an ornate gold frame with glass to protect it, this large coloured version of the skating carnival was on display in the Notman Studio for sixty-five years. In 1955 it was given by Charles Notman (William’s youngest son) to McGill University and now, still in near-new condition, it is one of the highlights of the Notman Photographic Archives.

© The McCord Museum of Canadian History, 2005. All rights reserved.

Skating Carnival

Skating Carnival, Victoria Rink, Montreal, QC, painted composite, 1870

William Notman
1870
Silver salts on paper - Albumen process
137 x 176 cm
N-0000.116.21.1
© McCord Museum


Henry Sandham

Henry Sandham, artist, Montreal, QC, 1864

William Notman
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
1864
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
8.5 x 5.6 cm
I-13432.1
© McCord Museum


Edward Sharpe

Edward Sharpe, artiste au service de Notman, Montréal, QC, 1870

William Notman
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.

Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
17.8 x 12.7 cm
I-60006.1
© McCord Museum


Notman's announced intention of creating a composite photograph of the colourful event evoked a quick and angry response from a young photographer and fellow Scot, James Inglis, who had already begun to make a composite of the same subject.

In The Montreal Daily Witness Febuary 26, 1870, Inglis placed the following challenge:

VICTORIA SKATING RINK

A notice having appeared in the public papers that another Picture of the Fancy Dress Entertainment at the Skating Rink is to be made in opposition to the one I had arranged for with the Director, and which has been in progress the last five weeks, and the manner of carrying out of which originated with me, I take this opportunity of coming before the citizens of Montreal in an open contest for the Laurels so long and deservedly worn by my competitor, who advertises to make the Picture in opposition to mine. I offer a Challenge, of which the following may be the terms: - That the merits of the respective Pictures may be decided upon not later than the 12th of May next, by three Judges chosen by the Directors of the Rink - the losing party to pay a forfeit of $200, one-half to be given to the Montreal Gene Read More
Notman's announced intention of creating a composite photograph of the colourful event evoked a quick and angry response from a young photographer and fellow Scot, James Inglis, who had already begun to make a composite of the same subject.

In The Montreal Daily Witness Febuary 26, 1870, Inglis placed the following challenge:

VICTORIA SKATING RINK

A notice having appeared in the public papers that another Picture of the Fancy Dress Entertainment at the Skating Rink is to be made in opposition to the one I had arranged for with the Director, and which has been in progress the last five weeks, and the manner of carrying out of which originated with me, I take this opportunity of coming before the citizens of Montreal in an open contest for the Laurels so long and deservedly worn by my competitor, who advertises to make the Picture in opposition to mine. I offer a Challenge, of which the following may be the terms: - That the merits of the respective Pictures may be decided upon not later than the 12th of May next, by three Judges chosen by the Directors of the Rink - the losing party to pay a forfeit of $200, one-half to be given to the Montreal General Hospital, the other to the Protestant House of Industry.

JAMES INGLIS

N.B. - Ladies and Gentlemen intending to appear in costume or as spectators on the occasion, will confer a favor by calling at my Rooms at the earliest possible date, where every facility will be afforded for dressing, etc, etc. J.I.

Notman ignored the challenge, content perhaps with the free publicity. The claim by Inglis that he was the originator of the technique was, of course, untrue (if indeed that is what he meant when he wrote " the manner of carrying out of which originated with me"). The technique for making composite photographs had been practiced in Europe and North America for a number of years.

But why it took so long for Notman to make his first major composite is a puzzling question.

© The McCord Museum of Canadian History, 2005. All rights reserved.

Carnival, Victoria Skating Rink

Carnival, Victoria Skating Rink, Montreal, QC, original paste-up, 1870

James Inglis
Gift of Mrs. I. Sexton
1870
Silver salts on paper - Albumen process
86 x 150 cm
MP-0000.1989
© McCord Museum


Video - Like Magic: Composite Photos

For the World's Fair, Notman plans a composite photograph in which individual images will be combined into a great panorama of a skating carnival.

Narrator

Montreal Gazette, 25 February.

William Notman

The approaching carnival at the skating rink is likely to be one of more than ordinary interest from the fact that His Royal Highness Prince Arthur is expected to grace the occasion with his presence. I have therefore selected this opportunity ... to get up an effective Picture of the Rink, for which purpose I beg to request that you will give me an early sitting...

Narrator

A hundred and fifty people oblige, not wishing to be left out of the record of such an event. They show up at the Bleury Street studio, as requested, in full fancy dress. But Notman is not interested in the individual photographs he takes. He plans a composite photograph in which all the individual images are to be combined into a great panorama of the event.

The Skating Carnival is William Notman’s first large scale production. It is received with enthusiasm around the world.

Jeff Nolte, Photographer

Jeff Nolte

Notman was a, a wizard at composites. It was a real money-maker for him, so each and every time there would be a large enough group, he would set about to recreate a scene for them and the scene for them would be his choosing, his arrangement. So each and every one of those people would have been shot individually and afterwards would have been cut and pasted into that giant composite image.

Uh, the point of all this would have been making a picture that couldn’t have been made otherwise, and as well it was appropriate to think that each and every one of those people would probably want one of those pictures, and that said, he could make a fortune in the, in the context of producing the work.

Roger Hall, Historian, University of Western Ontario

Roger Hall

This one’s fun. This is a composite photograph. It’s of yachting, all done in the studio, with the background painted in so you could make the sea as rough or as smooth as you liked. This is an initiative in which you’re paying, not only for photography, you’re paying for an artist, you’re paying for a set, you’re paying for costumes. A lot of money goes into this. We’re talking about the moneyed upper-middle class. They’re anxious to show off their new-found wealth. And a little family show on the, on the yacht, what could be more demonstrative for 19th century America in its gilded age?

Jeff Nolte

The work of doing those composites was quite difficult, and in the 19th century people really appreciated what was involved. They loved the look of that. It was almost magic to them, and almost magic in a way that, once again we can’t really appreciate. We look at that work now and say it looks kind of tricky and faked. And yet at the time it was, for their eyes, quite wonderful; an invention that would have been impossible to create in any other way.

Dennis Reid, Chief Curator, Art Gallery of Ontario

Dennis Reid

When one looks at the composites in relation to the painting that was going on at the time, it’s very apparent that they were succeeding as cultural objects, as works of art, and I think as long as we’re imagining them in that sense, we’re going to enjoy them to the full. It’s a little hard not to look at them and see them as something pretty kitschy because everybody tends to be exaggerated in their gestures — not always, but in many of the cases they are. And I think they were embraced first as curious Victorian collectibles and people didn’t think about them in terms of how they related to other artistic activity.

But I think once you do, then you see that there’s a, there’s a tenor to them that is quite serious, and, and, and finally, quite profound.

Notman's Canada Inc.
McCord Museum of Canadian History, PTV

© Notman's Canada Inc. 2004


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Define the lifestyle of people in Canada before and after Confederation;
  • Identify the consequences of urbanization and industrialization on the occupied territory;
  • Explain the outline and the actors of the Confederation;
  • Explain the development of technology, brought be industrialization.

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