Mont Royal-Ville Marie: Early Plans and Views of Montreal


160 pages
Contains Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 0-7735-0969-0
DDC 971.428




Reviewed by R. Kerry White

R. Kerry White is the director of theatre arts at Laurentian University.


Published to commemorate both the 350th anniversary of the founding of
Montreal and the reopening of the McCord Museum of Canadian History in
1992, this high-quality, bilingual exhibition catalogue records, with 12
color and 107 black-and-white reproductions, a cross section of the
plans, topographical studies, and aesthetic views of early (18th and
19th century) Montreal.

For those familiar with Montreal, the catalogue provides fascinating
views of individual streets and buildings, and of the island as a whole
from a variety of cross-river locations. The city’s cultural history
is also recorded in picturesque detail, even though many of the artists
were trained primarily as topographers, some from the Royal Military
Academy at Woolwich, England. The exhibition is currently at the
Courtauld Institute in London.

The declared selection criteria clarify the contents of the exhibition:
“following a decision to exclude prints and related printed material,
our selection was restricted to those works that best portray the city
and illustrate its urban growth in relation to its surrounding
communities.” Most of the works were drawn or painted on fragile paper
in ink, washes, and water colors, and are not normally on public view.
The exhibition and catalogue are, therefore, significant events in
Canada’s cultural history.

The presentation of works, the descriptive notes, and the scholarship
of this catalogue are meticulous. Included are informative short
biographies of 38 artist/topographers, an interesting introduction, and
a selected bibliography. The introduction not only places the exhibition
in its historical context, but also usefully discusses the history and
relative qualities of landscape painting and topographical studies. Both
forms were becoming increasingly popular among the wealthy in England
and the colonies during the 19th century. The little appreciated fact is
that Canadian landscape painting, of such importance in our cultural
history, owes much to the topographer/artists who were engaged to record
views of settlements for military purposes.


Graham, Conrad., “Mont Royal-Ville Marie: Early Plans and Views of Montreal,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,