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Anne Langton - Gentlewoman, Pioneer Settler and Artist: Britain and Canada - 1865-1878 - Page Banner

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When the permanent Canadian Parliament Buildings were completed in 1865, the family moved to Ottawa, where they remained until John's retirement in 1878. John and Lydia Langton spent part of 1867 in England when John was required, in his capacity as Auditor, to be in London for negotiations between the Canadian and British governments, leading up to the declaration of Confederation.

Following Confederation, the Langtons entered more into society than at any other previous time since their arrival in Canada thirty years earlier. Langton later wrote in her memoir of this first winter season in the capital of the new Dominion: "[W]e went into more gaieties than usual, and we gave two large parties, dancing the first, music the second." (SOF, 182)

From this point on, Langton reveals superb artistry in her handling of materials and close attention to subtle details, such as variations in light. Her evocation of water and of reflected images (trees, boats, buildings ... ) is particularly fine. In many of these later views, through subtle shifts in tonal shading of her washes, Langton skillfully renders the delicate luminosity of "sky-scapes."

Anne made further extended visits to Britain in the late 1860s and mid 1870s. Her work matured, with her increasing confidence.

Occasionally, Langton still produced topographical views, as in this watercolour, which demonstrates a fine harmony of compositional elements, drawing skills, tonal contrasts.

A miniature version of this sketch appears on the front of a hand-made greeting card (Archives of Ontario, F 1077-9-1-21). Inscribed inside the card is a note describing the subject as "Llandudno, from just above Plas Mawr & Penmaenmawr by dear Aunt Anne."

Plas Mawr, North Wales, 1868
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Plas Mawr [North Wales], 1868
Anne Langton
Watercolour on cream wove paper
Reference Code: F 1077-9-1-27
Archives of Ontario, I0008420

Snowdon [North Wales], 1868
Snowdon [North Wales], 1868
Anne Langton
Watercolour, pen and ink on cream wove paper
7.5 cm x 17.3 cm (3" x 6¾")
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-3
Archives of Ontario, I0008270

Langton also continues to experiment in lyrical mode. In this sketch of the highest mountain in Wales, she displays a loose, yet fluent, painting technique. Her landscapes "in miniature" have become gems of economy, through skilful manipulation of paint and more experimental use of colour.

This sketch is Langton's most gestural and painterly, for good reason: she releases herself, altogether, from picturesque restraints to convey one of the most "sublime" features in English landscape, extolled by writers and artists for its stark, almost menacing, eeriness.

James Ward had painted an enormous version of it. Langton's perspective - in landscape format (i.e. horizontal) - is similar to one of Ward's preliminary sketches. Most artists, however, rendered Gordale Scar in portrait (vertical) format.

Gordale [Scar, Yorkshire], [ca. 1873?]
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Gordale [Scar, Yorkshire], [ca. 1873?]
Anne Langton
Monochromatic watercolour,
pen and ink over graphite
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-8
Archives of Ontario, I0008581

[Front inside cover of sketchbook] ""England ?1876, (slight)""
[Front inside cover of sketchbook] "England ?1876, (slight)"
Anne Langton
9 cm x 15.3 cm (3½" x 6")
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-6
Archives of Ontario, I0008582

Langton's signature, home-base address in England: "Hopefield," (William's residence) and a few incidental jottings, give occasional glimpses of her habits as she toured and sketched.

Hopefield Manchester, [ca. 1873]
Hopefield Manchester, [ca. 1873]
Watercolour over graphite
Anne Langton
10.5 cm x 17.4 cm (4" x 7")
Reference Code: F 1077-9-1-15
Archives of Ontario. I0008461

Hopefield, near Eccles, on the outskirts of Manchester, was the home of William and Margaret Langton from about 1873 until his retirement from banking in 1876. A note on the back of this sketch reads: "by Miss Anne Langton for Jack" (John's and Lydia's fifth son) who was now in England studying at Owens College in Manchester.

By the 1870s within their respective social contexts, both the sons of Anne's parents, Thomas and Ellen Langton, had reached a pinnacle with regard to their careers and social standing. WIlliam, in England, was now the Manager of Williams Deacon Bank in Manchester, also one of the founders of Owen's College (later the University of Manchester), a social reformer, philanthropist and connoisseur of the arts.

John, in Canada, was now Auditor of the provinces of Canada, post-confederation, the Deputy Minister of Finance and Inspector of Her Majesty's prisons in Canada. He had also been instrumental in the establishment of the new University of Toronto at a crucial stage in its early development. He was a keen participant in both the Literary and Philosophical Society of Quebec City and of the [Royal] Canadian Institute of Scientific Studies at Toronto, for which he wrote and presented a number of papers on current issues of the day.

Ottawa from the Rideau River, c. 1876
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Ottawa from New Edinburgh, [ca. 1876]
Anne Langton
Monochromatic watercolour
Reference Code: F 1077-9-1-25-3
Archives of Ontario, I0008424

Langton executed an outstanding set of fully worked-up companion views of the Parliament Buildings. In souvenir tradition, they are, however, less stylized than her earlier topographical work. Preliminary, on-the-spot sketches for these views are found in the sketchbook "Ottawa and England" (Archives of Ontario, F 1077-8-1-9).

Aware of the national significance of her subject, Langton is also mindful of a direct personal connection, through John's official positions.

[Ottawa] from the woods behind Rideau Hall, [ca. 1876]
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[Ottawa] from the woods behind Rideau Hall, [ca. 1876]
Anne Langton
Monochromatic watercolour
Reference Code: F 1077-9-1-25-4
Archives of Ontario, I0008426

[Ottawa] from the grounds of J. Ashworth's, c. 1876
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[Ottawa] from the grounds of J. Ashworth's, [ca. 1876]
Anne Langton
Monochromatic watercolour
Reference Code: F 1077-9-1-25-3
Archives of Ontario, I0008425

In the sketch to the right above, Langton introduces her now-grown nieces as figures in the landscape.

This distant view contrasts with its companion pieces, calling attention to the capital's proximity to what is still virgin forest.

The sketchbook versions of these Ottawa scenes are in full watercolour (Archives of Ontario, F 1077-8-1-9).

There is an additional loose drawing of this particular image, in full watercolour (Archives of Ontario, F 1077-9-1-24), suggesting that Langton made several sets of these companion views as souvenir gifts.

[Ottawa] the Rideau River from the Hog's Back, [ca. 1876]
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[Ottawa] the Rideau River from the Hog's Back, [ca. 1876]
Anne Langton
Monochromatic watercolour
Reference Code: F 1077-9-1-25-1
Archives of Ontario, I0008423

From behind Rideau Hall, Ottawa, c. 1876
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From behind Rideau Hall, Ottawa, [ca. 1876]
Anne Langton
Reference Code: F 1077-8-1-9-28
Archives of Ontario, I0008079

A foreground tree stump, a fallen log, remind viewers of the landscape's "wild" appearance a few years earlier, before white-settler "civilization" arrived.

This preliminary sketchbook version demonstrates another aspect of Langton's working methods: on the facing, left-hand page, she has scribbled notes, indicating different shades and tones that she will try out for the various landscape features: "buildings dark river decided blue bluer river offshore ... " Interestingly, she returned to monochromatic watercolour for her final, worked-up versions of these Ottawa views.