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Kent Monkman

The King's Beavers


Kent Monkman
Born in Saint Marys, Ontario, in 1965


The King's Beavers




Acrylic on canvas


243.8 x 213.4 cm


Gift of the artist and W. Bruce C. Bailey in honour of Nathalie Bondil to mark the 150th anniversary of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, inv. 2011.401


Quebec and Canadian Art

With this large painting Monkman, an artist of Cree and Anglo-Irish ancestry, invents a subject missing from a series of exotic hunting scenes commissioned by King Louis XIV for the Palace of Versailles. Symbol of Canada’s nascent economy, the beaver – which the King neglected to have included in the series – takes over from crocodiles, ostriches, tigers and elephants. His choice of anthropomorphic representation enables Monkman to engage in a subtle game of role-playing. European depictions of abductions and massacres, as well as certain history paintings from the early days of the colony, such as France Bringing the Faith to the Hurons of New France, also serve as a loose framework for the composition. Due to the artist’s open-mindedness, however, there is no absolute condemnation of the context, but rather a playful awareness of what is at issue. Accordingly, in the background sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert’s romantic figure of the Fisherman with a Spear (a work in the Museum’s collection) also takes part in the slaughter!

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