‘Les Voyageurs - from Canoe to
On April 15, the Jaques Art Center in Aitkin, Minnesota unveiled an
anniversary art exhibit by artist/historian, Robert Perrizo.
It was 210 years ago that Lewis & Clark completed their ‘Corps of
Discovery’ journey west which was commission by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803. This exploration concluded the Louisiana Purchase
that made the United States whole in 1806. ‘Les Voyageurs - From Canoe
to Canvas’ documents this early Minnesota history and features more than 40 all new vibrant oils of wilderness scenes and explorers.
It covers the State’s 1660-1740 French period.
The exhibit features highly researched portraits of early French explorers, including Radisson, Marquette, Duluth, and Hennepin who
explored and claimed the Mississippi for French King Louis XIV.
Perrizo also portrays the colorful French Voyageur fur traders and their Indian trade partners.
These two groups embraced each other’s cultures which eventually set the tone for the blending of mixed-blood peoples call the Metis nation in the New World.
These colorful French Canadian canoe men were known for their red wool tasseled caps, deer-skin leggings secured to a waist belt, bare thighs, Indian breech cloth, plus deer skin moccasins. They also featured a colorful sash around their waists to protect them from ruptures when
carrying two or more 90-pound packs of their backs during portages.
They navigated their eight-man, 36 foot canoes that carried up to four tons of trade goods, especially beaver hides, and supplies on the Great Lakes for rendezvous with with western Indians and wintering French voyageurs of Minnesota. Paintings include the establishing of the North West Fur Company at Grand Portage as the western Great Lakes terminus from Montreal in 1780.
All of this makes for a colorful display of voyageurs canoeing, portaging and singing around campfires during the evening respites.The exhibit illuminates the close participation the French had with the Indians, particularly the Dakota, in the storied horse and buffalo culture that emerged with the arrival of horses on the Great Plains.
The horse had been extinct in North America for 50,000 years.Then, in 1690 the Pueblo Indians ‘liberated’ horses from the Spanish
conquistadores and in a few years over two million horses were running free on the Plains.The Dakota obtained steeds from the Mandan peoples and quickly transformed themselves into master horsemen. The French involvement with this era comes alive with Perrizo’s portrayal of the exciting evolution from plodding farmers to a wide-ranging, hard-riding, buffalo-hunting, Plains tribe.
The exhibit will end on May 21.