I was fortunate enough to spend my birthday recently wandering the galleries of the esteemed National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa - there I saw 2 famous original oil portraits of Burlington's very own Chief Joseph Brant.
The first portrait by society artist George Romney, was painted when Brant was 33 years old. The portrait was done in Romney's London studio in 1776 when Brant visited the city with Guy Johnson (who was the royal commissioner for Indian Affairs of North America). Brant is shown wearing a white ruffled shirt, Indian blanket, silver gorget and a plumed headress . He is carrying a tomahawk. Romney's painting is gorgeous to see and so well illustrates how Brant straddled both native and western worlds.
In the same gallery I found this second portrait, (bottom picture) by William Berczy. This portrait was believed to have been painted shortly after the Chief''s death at the age of 65. Brant appears as a completely assimilated Mohawk Chief, standing on the banks of perhaps the Grand River pointing to the site of his people's new homeland. The artist has an interesting link to Canadian history - born in Saxony, he studied art in Italy and England before coming to North America. In addition to working as a portrait painter, he was also a writer, town planner, engineer, architect and land developer. It was in his role of land developer that Berczy met Joseph Brant in 1794. He is known to have settled a group of German colonists in the town of Markham.
Photographs courtesy of National Gallery of Canada