Portraits Attributed to Cook:
The Canada Years (1830's)

(NOTE: Portraits are listed by date of completion if known; if date unknown, portrait is listed at the end of this section. Use links to move between related sites within and beyond this website.)

Portrait Miniature of Nelson Cook (ca 1829/1830) (Private Collection, New York)
(b. 8 Oct 1808, Malta, NY - d. 28 Jul 1892, Saratoga Springs, NY and most likely buried in Greenridge Cemetery, Saratoga Springs, NY. This portrait miniature is painted on ivory and only 2 1/3" x 1 1/4" in size. A New York State collector purchased the portrait in December 2009 and it will be resold at auction in May 2010. Given the painting's similarity to a photograph taken of Nelson Cook at age 45 in 1853/1854, there is no doubt this miniature depicts the artist as a young man. Although it is known that Cook and/or his wife, Esther, painted portrait miniatures in their early years [see Letters from Canada: 1836-1837], none has ever surfaced - until now perhaps. Unfortunately, the miniature is unsigned, making it difficult to know for sure who painted it. But three possibilities exist: Nelson, Esther, or a third-party artist. As evidenced by the expressive modeling of the face and the lifelike texture and wave of the hair, the style and quality appear much more animated than the primitive and stiff images Nelson was painting early in his career [see Lemuel Dickinson]. These factors might rule out Nelson as the artist, especially when the miniature is compared to another less whimsical painting thought to be a Cook self-portrait done 2 to 3 years later in 1832. But if the 1829/1830 miniature could be verified as having been done by Nelson himself, it would be the earliest known Cook portrait still in existence. A very significant find to say the least! And while several 19th century references have suggested Esther was a portraitist in her own right, no authenticated paintings by her hand are known to exist, which would leave one hard-pressed to attribute this portrait to her based on any known style. Lastly, perhaps a third-party artist did this portrait of Nelson. But as young, aspiring painters presumably with little money in 1829/1830, would the Cooks have had the means and desire for another artist to do Nelson's portrait -- one that could not be used as a promotional vehicle for their fledgling portraiture business? Or might well-off brother Ransom have commissioned the miniature as an inspirational gift for Nelson, who was just embarking on his portrait career? We may never know who painted this wonderful miniature, but we welcome any thoughts and comments on the subject. There are two separate inscriptions on the back, which appear to have been done by two different people, presumably at two different times. If accurate, the top inscription helps date the portrait, while the bottom inscription refers to Esther Marion Ellenwood Eastman, Nelson Cook's only granddaughter. The miniature is damaged on the left-hand side, but otherwise appears to be in good condition given its age of 180 years.)


Nelson Cook Self-Portrait (ca 1832) (Location unknown)
(Family records say that Cook's age when he completed this self-portrait, 24, is written on the back of the photo of the painting, taken when the portrait hung on the wall of a descendant [note what is apparently a portrait lamp (or possibly a desk lamp) intruding on the portrait image]. If, as this suggests, the work was finished before Cook went to Canada (1832?), it is his oldest known portrait. Cook apparently did display a self-portrait in Kingston, and he entered a self-portrait in Toronto's Society of Artists and Amateurs exhibition in the Canadian Parliament buildings in July, 1834 [Were they the same painting? Could this self-portrait be the one?]. The Toronto entry, along with another entry of his [John P. Kemble as Hamlet], was said by one writer in the Toronto Courier, to be "equal to the best in the exhibition… rich and splendid paintings," by another to be "spirited and expressive" if poorly drawn; not everyone was as charitable. See also
Self-Portrait? 1856 and As a Portraitist.)


Courtesy of H.A. Eastman

Lemuel Dickinson (1832) (Upper Canada Village Collection)
(b. 22 Oct 1760 in Hatfield, MA - d. 14 May 1835 in Denmark, NY; son of John Dickinson, Sr. and Mary Coleman; 27 Nov 1773 married Molly/Mollie Little (1752-1830) and fathered ten children, including Barnabas and Horace, who later teamed up in the transport business; Hatfield, MA landowner, farmer, and militia officer during American Revolutionary War and combatant at Bunker Hill - early 1800s land deeds listed his name as General Dickinson, as he was known henceforth; moved family to Lowville in Western New York in 1806, and eventually settled in Denmark, NY where he was a tavern keeper, an 1808 founding trustee of Lowville Academy, a member of the Lewis County Bible Society from at least 1812-1819, and an 1815 founding trustee of the First Ecclesiastical Society of Denmark; father/grandfather of other Dickinson sitters [see below]. Written on the back of this portrait is "Painted by N. Cook, 1832." It is not known whether Cook had in fact entered Canada by 1832. While by this time most of the Dickinson family had moved to Ontario, Lemuel apparently remained in Denmark, this according to Barbara Snyder, "Nelson Cook in Canada," Canadian Collector, Sep-Oct 1976. Moreover, grandson Walter Dickinson went to Lowville Academy near Denmark, so it is possible this and other "Canadian" portraits were done in New York. See Barnabas Dickinson and Parrit Blaisdell.)


Courtesy of Upper Canada Village, #1970.12.1

Barnabas Dickinson/Dickenson (1832) (Upper Canada Village Collection)
(b. 5 May 1783 - d. 26 Aug 1832, Cornwall, Ont.; son of Lemuel; on 24 Jan 1811 married Lydia Davenport (1793-1865); ancestors said to have come on Mayflower; father of Moss Kent, Sophia, Walter and John; settled in Lowville, NY, moved to Denmark, NY in 1810, and then to Cornwall in Canada in 1828, though he spent much time in Canada prior to this last move; founder of Dickinson's Landing, a village on the St. Lawrence eventually flooded out by the Seaway; ran stagecoach/mail line with brother Horace from Kingston to Montreal; within days of a visit to opening of Rideau Canal with Moss Kent, Barnabas died of cholera, then an epidemic in the area perhaps worsened by the large impoverished immigrant population which dug the Canal. This portrait is labeled on the front lower left corner "Barnabas Dickenson [sic]/Aged 49 Years/A.D. 1832," and verso "Painted by N. Cook". The same chair may have been used for several of the Dickinson subjects as well as for Parrit Blaisdell, who lived in New York across the river -- Had Cook yet entered Canada? See Lemuel Dickinson.)


Courtesy of Upper Canada Village, # 1970.12.2

Moss Kent Dickinson (1832) (Upper Canada Village Collection)
(b. 1 June 1822, Denmark, NY - d. 19 July 1897; son of Barnabas/us and Lydia Dickinson; m. Elizabeth Trigge, ca 1846, 3 sons, 3 daughters; ran numerous steamers and barges between Ottawa and Kingston on the Rideau Canal [which employed Nicol Hugh Baird]; extended his freight forwarding to Quebec and Lake Champlain [see JH Hooker]; mill owner in Manotick, S of Ottawa, home in his later years; mayor of Ottawa, 1864-66; elected to Dominion Parliament, 1882; buried Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa. Dickinson Days, with parades and dancing, are still celebrated every June in Manotick, where Moss Kent's stone mill is a tourist destination. This portrait of Moss Kent as a boy of 10 unsigned but attributed to Cook.)


Courtesy of Upper Canada Village, #1970.12.3

Sophia Dickinson (1832) (Royal Ontario Museum)
(b. c. 1828 - d. 30 Aug 1832; daughter of Barnabas Dickinson and Lydia Davenport; died four days after her father as a result of the same cholera epidemic. Inscribed on stretcher: "Painted by N Cook 1832." For many years the adorable little girl pictured in this portrait was thought to be named "Emily." However, after extensive research by the Royal Ontario Museum, it was confirmed that the only daughter born to Barnabas and Lydia was Sophia, who was named after Barnabas' sister. This portrait, along with seven others depicting children, was the subject of a 2011-2012 Royal Ontario Museum exhibit called "Sitting Still: Faces of Childhood.")


With permission of the Royal Ontario Museum © ROM, #999.125.1
 

Walter Dickinson? (1832?) (Royal Ontario Museum)
(Eldest son of Barnabas Dickinson; in 1832 student in academy near Denmark, Lewis County, NY, the same school where his grandfather, Lemuel, was a founding trustee in 1808. Since the academy is some 100 miles from Cornwall, Ont., as with the rest of the family, it is unclear whether Cook painted the portrait in New York or Upper Canada. [See John Dickinson.] Inscribed on stretcher: "Painted by N. Cook")


With permission of the Royal Ontario Museum © ROM, #994.208.1
 

John Dickinson? (1832?) (Upper Canada Village Collection)
(Son of Barnabas Dickinson. The curator at UCV writes: "There is a hand-written note that identifies the portrait as Walter and then it is stroked out and reidentified as John. If the Royal Ontario Museum is convinced [?] that they have the Walter portrait, then… that helps identify ours somewhat as John, but not conclusively." Further, the painting has been seriously altered and overpainted, especially in the background, clothing and hair; the face and hands, however, seem to be original and untouched. The portrait is unsigned but attributed to Cook.) 


Courtesy of Upper Canada Village, #1970.12.4

Parrit Blaisdell, Jr. (1832) (Franklin County Historical and Museum Society, Malone, NY)
(b. 4 May 1796, Orange, Grafton County, NH - d. 3 (4?) Aug 1834; son of merchant, stage driver, and Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veteran Parrit Blaisdell; Parrit, Jr. (who might have sometimes been called "Peter" as family lore has him) was also a stage driver between Windsor and Montpelier, VT; m. Betsey Standish, 1 Jan 1822, Montpelier; family moved in 1825 to Ft. Covington, NY; there the Standish Genealogy says he was a clock and watchmaker, while family lore suggests he may also have been a silversmith; he and his 10-year-old son Edwin died of cholera. [See Barnabas Dickinson; Ft. Covington, NY, is across the St. Lawrence River from Barnabas's town of Cornwall, Ontario; this geography, plus the chair in which some subjects are sitting, suggest that the Dickinsons and Blaisdells were painted at the same time, either in Canada or on the New York side.])


Mrs. Parrit (Betsey Standish) Blaisdell (1832) (Franklin County Historical and Museum Society, Malone, NY)
(b. 24 Aug 1799, Middleborough, Plymouth, MA - d. 30 May 1888, Hartford, CT; direct 7th generation descendant of Myles Standish, born to farmer Moses and Sally Redding Standish, one of perhaps 10 children; family moved to West Randolph, Orange County, VT; she and husband Parrit Blaisdell, Jr. had three children, Edwin Miles Standish (1824), Chester Wright (1826), and Harriet Elizabeth (ca 1828); after Parrit's death, by 1844, married Lyman Sperry (ca 1789 - 1857) of Malone, Franklin County, NY; after Lyman's death "Grandma Sperry" lived ca 30 years with daughter Harriet Fiske in Malone, later in Hartford.)


Mr. Robert McVicar (1832) (McCord Museum of Canadian History)
(b. ca 1794? 1799?, probably Scotland (Ireland?) - d. April 1864, Thunder Bay, Canada West (today Ontario). Employed by Hudson's Bay Company 1812-1830; posted primarily to Saskatchewan, Lake Athabasca and Great Slave Lake areas, earning a reputation as a fighter in the ongoing rivalry with North West Company; held prisoner for a time by NWC, fought a duel with an NWC clerk, and apparently involved in unfortunate incident when forced to surrender an Indian soon "butchered in a most cruel manner" by explorer/trader Peter Ogden, another "Nor'Wester." With the merger of the two fur-trading companies (1821), McVicar became one of 28 "chief traders"; retired in 1830; farmed outside Montreal; as captain of St. Andrews Rifle Company helped quell the 1837 Rebellion [see Sir Francis Bond Head]; in 1860 became Postmaster, Ft. William/Thunder Bay; active writer and promoter of western settlement. Although Robert died without achieving his long-sought status as a wealthy landowner, his name lives on in the McVicar Arm of Great Bear Lake and McVicar Creek in what is now Port Arthur; buried Riverside Cemetery, Thunder Bay. Portrait apparently painted in Quebec City [see below].)


Courtesy of the McCord Museum of Canadian History, acc #M14908

Mrs. Robert McVicar (nee Christina McBeth/McBeath?) (1832) (McCord Museum of Canadian History)
(b. ca 18 Aug 1810-14? - d. 14 Jun 1878; went by nickname of Christy; the daughter of pioneers, married Robert McVicar at Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca on May 28, 1827; the ceremony was conducted by the famous and tragic Arctic explorer John Franklin (1786-1847); she and Robert had two sons [George and the other name unknown] and two daughters [Victoria (late 1830s-1899) and Christina (late 1830s-1895)]. Both daughters became wealthy through aggressive land deals and achieved the financial success that had evaded their father, Robert. Additionally, Victoria, a spinster, became well-known as a dramatic and “spirited frontier woman,” and reportedly negotiated with Metis rebel Louis Riel for the release of prisoners. Or was this simply another example of self-promotional embellishment on Victoria’s part? Christy died at Fort William, Ontario on Lake Superior. Her portrait, like Robert’s, was apparently painted in Quebec City.)


Courtesy of the McCord Museum of Canadian History, acc #M14907

Nicol Hugh Baird (1833) (National Archives of Canada)
(b. 26 Aug 1796, Glasgow, Scotland - d. 18 Oct 1849, Brattleboro, VT; son of Hugh Nicol Baird and Margaret Burthwaite; engineer, surveyor, and prominent developer of Canadian water transport; worked with father on Forth & Clyde and Union Canals, Scotland, and, as a teen, on the restoration of St. Petersburg, Russia; to Montreal (1828) with references from Duke of Montrose and from renowned British engineer Thomas Telford; assigned to Clerk of Works, Rideau Canal, under Lt. Col. John By, replacing the controversial, malarial, and apparently oft-drunk surveyor and author John MacTaggart; worked also on Chambly and Welland Canals, Presqu'ile Point lighthouse, Trent Severn Waterway; latter efforts "cut short by political interference"; admitted to Britain's Institution of Civil Engineers, 1831. s., d. verso. Along with the portrait of his wife and daughter (Mary Telfer Baird and Mary), this portrait was displayed on the Rideau Canal, at the base of the Bank Street bridge at eye level for passing Winterlude skaters in February 2008.)


National Archives of Canada, R7620-1

Mrs. Mary Telfer (nee White) Baird, and daughter Mary (1833) (National Archives of Canada)
(b. after 1808, Montreal - d. 20 Aug 1847, Montreal; m. engineer Nicol Hugh Baird, 21 Sep 1831 in Bytown (renamed Ottawa, 1855); on mother's knee in portrait is first-born child Mary Telfer Baird (b. 13 Sep 1832, Bytown - d. 25 July 1918, buried Paris, Ontario; m. Robert Thompson, MD); the Bairds had a total of eight children, four boys and four girls; Mary gave birth to twin girls one week before her death. Apparently Mary's father, prominent businessman and builder Andrew White (b. ca 1783, Scotland - d. 11 July 1832, Montreal; wife Mary) died in the same cholera epidemic which took Cook subjects Barnabas Dickinson and Parrit Blaisdell, a disease perhaps acquired at the Rideau Canal (opened May, 1832), where, like Mary's husband, White worked with Lt Col John By. As in other early Cooks, the sitters in this portrait are backed by a flat brown surface, but figures are detailed: the elder Mary wears 'sausage roll curls,' dark dress with puffed sleeves, white lace-trimmed blouse, a white, red and green shawl around her neck; jewelry, including earrings, necklace, brooch, and rings, underscore her station in society; baby Mary wears a medium-blue dress, ruffled lace eyelet cap, and red beads. s., d. verso. The Baird portraits [see Nicol Hugh Baird] are reported to be the oldest pair of family portraits in Ottawa's National Archives.)


National Archives of Canada, R7620-2

George Malloch (1834) (Royal Ontario Museum)
(b. 1797 - d. 1870, Brockville, Ontario; lawyer and Judge of Johnstown District Court, centered at Perth and including the Bathurst District; would practice law with William Buell Richards, later Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Canada; brother of lawyer/judge John G. Malloch and apparently uncle of pioneering Canadian surgeon A. E. Malloch; from Brockville, a town near the St. Lawrence some 60 miles upriver from Cornwall, Ont., and Fort Covington, NY [see Barnabas Dickinson, Parrit Blaisdell]. Inscribed verso on canvas: Painted by Nelson Cook - 1834.) 


With permission of the Royal Ontario Museum © ROM, #990.202.1

Sally Malloch (nee Wells) (1834) (Royal Ontario Museum)
(m. George Malloch 1826. Apparently bore at least several children, including Sarah Ann Malloch, her eldest daughter. Inscribed verso on canvas: Painted by Nelson Cook - 1834.)


With permission of the Royal Ontario Museum © ROM, #990.202.2

Mrs. Nelson (Esther Freeman) Cook (1834) (Location unknown)
(b. c. 1808 - d. Feb 1893; Cook's wife; portrait noted in an undated (c. 1885) newspaper article as one of several paintings in Cook's Saratoga Springs studio; probably painted in Canada as an example of his work for prospective patrons.)

Alicia Fenton Samson (1835) (National Archives of Canada)
(b. 1799/1800 - d. August, 1878; nee Russell; married in 1828 to James Hunter Samson (d. 1836) and in 1838 to lawyer and speculator Charles Otis Benson (1811-1854); lived many years in Belleville, Ontario, died a widow in Aylmer, PQ; niece and ward of Sir John Harvey (1778-1852), Lt Col in the British Army, saw action in War of 1812, negotiator in the Maine boundary dispute, Gov of Newfoundland, Lt Gov of PEI, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Portrait inscribed on verso: Painted by N. Cook/A.D 1835 (incomplete).)


National Archives of Canada, 1996-126-1

Reverend Joseph Hemington Harris (ca 1835) (Upper Canada College)
(b. 1800, London - d. 25 Jun 1881 at Torquay, Devon, England; son of Joseph and Cordelia Anne Harris; educated at Cambridge, receiving BA in 1822 and MA in 1825; awarded a Lambeth DD in 1829, elected a deacon in Church of England in 1829, and became of priest of the Church in 1830; served as Principal of Upper Canada College (1829-38) in Toronto; an 1893 school history notes the difficulties faced by UCC (cholera epidemics, crude infrastructure, etc.), praising Harris for his "arduous service," implementation of a traditional curriculum, and tolerance toward Catholic students, but apparently not linking him to financial laxity which marred the school's early years. (Today, UCC is a college prep school of some 1000 students.) First wife, Charlotte Ann Collyer, died in 1834 and in 1837 married Jane Yonge. After UCC, Harris went on to Tormorham/Torquay, Devon, on the SW coast of England, where he became curate of several united parishes; he is author of several works on theology. This portrait appears in the 1848 Exhibition Catalogue of the Toronto Society of Arts (item 382), available through the Art Gallery of Ontario; at the time of the exhibit, the painting was listed as belonging to F.W. Barron, Esq., then Principal of Upper Canada College, where the portrait still resides.)


Courtesy of Upper Canada College

Hon. William Morris, M.L.C. (1835) (Location unknown)
(b. 31 Oct 1786 in Paisley, Scotland - d. 29 Jun 1858 in Montreal; second child of wealthy Alexander Morris and Janet Lang; originally went to Upper Canada with family in 1801, returned to Scotland in 1802 with mother / siblings, and then permanently immigrated to Canada in 1806 following his father's failed Canadian business venture; opened a store in Elizabethtown with brother Alexander and served as middlemen between Montreal merchants and Indians & loggers in the wilderness; commissioned as an ensign in the War of 1812 and fought in support of Britain; returned to business after the conflict and opened a second store in Perth in 1816 and by the 1830s was a very wealthy merchant with large land holdings throughout Upper Canada; in 1818 appointed Justice of the Peace in Perth and in 1820 elected overwhelmingly to the House of Assembly; in 1822 named lieutenant-colonel in local militia where he served for over 20 years, including action helping to put down the Rebellion of 1837; in the Assembly worked closely with Sir John Beverly Robinson to expel American Barnabas Bidwell from the Canadian House in 1822, but soon after began challenging Sir Robinson's assertion that the Church of Scotland should be excluded from the widespread Clergy Reserve lands, which would give the Church of England full control; married Elizabeth Cochran (1784-1857) in Aug 1823 and had seven children, including Alexander Morris (1826-1889), who was the second Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba from 1872-1877; starting in 1823 and for the next 17 years successfully championed the cause of the Church of Scotland and Scottish nationalism in Canada, an issue which was at odds with the thinking of Sir Robinson and Upper Canada Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head, both of whom supported strict English sovereignty; in 1836 appointed to the Legislative Council and in 1844 to the Executive Council where he served as Receiver-General (Treasurer) (1844-1846) and Council President (1846-1848); in 1841 helped establish Queen's College (now Queen's University) in Kingston, which was modeled after the major universities in Scotland, and served as the first chairman of the board of trustees before resigning in 1842 when the school's ideologies clashed with his own; suffered a stroke in 1853 and died in 1858.)

Nathaniel Coffin (1835) (Glenbow-Alberta Institute, Glenbow Museum)
(b. Boston, ca 1776? - d. Toronto, 1846; Canadian military officer with a distinguished record in War of 1812; appointed Ensign 1783?; "mentioned in dispatches" after Battle of Queenston Heights; Dep Adjutant General (1813) and Adjutant General (1815), Upper Canada (Ontario) Militia; as ADC to Sir Rodger Sheaffe, said to have saved then-US Col Winfield Scott meeting with Sheaffe from violence at the hands of a Mohawk by putting a pistol to the latter's head. Portrait done for Mrs. William Coffin of Hamkerburg Canada West)

Sportsman from New York State (ca 1835-45) (Location unknown)
(Despite the date range offered, it should be mentioned that Cook was in Canada at least until 1839. Noted by Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS). [See Millard Powers Fillmore].)

Peter Perry (1836) (Centennial Building, Whitby, Ontario, Canada)
(b. 14 Nov 1792 at Ernestown, Lennox and Addington County, Upper Canada [Ontario] - d. 24 Aug 1851, Saratoga Springs, NY; buried at Union Cemetery, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada; son of Robert Perry and Jemima Gary Washburn Perry, who were both born in Massachusetts and who remained loyal to the throne during the American Revolution before fleeing to Canada in 1779 m. Mary (Polly) Ham 19 Jun 1814 in Lennox and Addington Co. and had nine children; participated in a protest to retain Marshall Spring Bidwell's name on a special-election ballot in 1823 and one year later both men were elected to the Upper Canada Parliament where they remained until 1836; following his 1836 defeat as a reformer, he settled in Whitby, Ontario, where he set up one of two general stores, the other was on Lake Scugog at Port Perry, which was named in his honor; in 1849 became the first person ever elected to Parliament as part of the tenacious, liberal, and reform-oriented Clear Grit Party, however he soon fell ill and only served sporadically; died in Saratoga Springs in 1851 following a NYC visit with his good friend and political ally, Marshall Spring Bidwell. Since 1955 the town of Whitby has honored its outstanding citizen with the annual Peter Perry Award.)


Mrs. Peter (Mary Polly Ham) Perry (1836) (Centennial Building, Whitby, Ontario, Canada)
(b. 6 Nov 1795 at Ernestown, Lennox and Addington County, Upper Canada [Ontario] - d. 15/16 Nov 1881 at Whitby, Ontario, Canada; buried at Union Cemetery, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada; m. Peter Perry 19 Jun 1814 in Lennox and Addington County, Ontario and had nine children.)


Sir Francis Bond Head (1837) (National Gallery of Canada)
(b. 1 Jan 1793 at Higham, England - d. 20 Jul 1875 at Croydon, England; parents were James Roper Mendes Head and Frances Anne Burgess; married Julia Valenza Somerville in 1816 and they produced 4 children; soldier with Britain's Royal Engineers, 1811-1825, including service at Waterloo; author and adventurer, who soon after leaving the army began to write and unsuccessfully attempted to set up a gold and silver mining company in Argentina; earned the nickname "Galloping Head" for his two rides across the Andes from Buenos Aires; his demonstration of the military uses of the lasso resulted in an 1831 knighthood from King William IV; nickname also suited him well during his subsequent days as the ill-prepared and controversial Lt. Governor of Upper Canada (Ontario), 1835-38; although named a Baronet during the first year of his short term, forced to quell the rebellion of 1837 [see Robert McVicar], which arose largely due to Head's inexperience and lack of diplomacy; dismissed as Lt. Governor by Queen Victoria in 1838 at which time he left Canada in disgrace and disguised as a confidant's servant, and returned to England where he became a reputable author of books and essays. A citizens committee in Canada sent this oil portrait to England to be made into a mezzotint [see below]; however, Queen Victoria refused to accept the proposed dedication of the print to her as she was upset at the way Head, whom some called "reactionary," had handled the 1837 rebellion. But in a show of support 30 years later, in 1867 the Queen named Sir Francis to the Privy Council, an appointment described by Prime Minister Lord Darby as, "a tardy act of justice." This 3/4 view painting may be Cook's best-known portrait and the artist was known to have kept a copy in his studio until as late as 1885. Cook's painting also served as the model for the Head portrait done by George Theodore Berthon (1806-1892), who was commissioned by Sir John Beverly Robinson in 1880 to paint a series of 20 posthumous portraits of former Lt. Governors for display in the recently (1870) built Government House in Toronto. Berthon's rendering is now displayed at the Ontario Legislative Building, Queen's Park, Toronto.)


Courtesy of National Gallery of Canada, Acc. # 6516

Sir Francis Bond Head Mezzotints (1837) (McCord Museum)
Mezzotint is a process of printmaking in which the plate is embedded with thousands of small dots as a means of creating tonality. The plate is inked and then wiped clean. When printing, the dots hold a great deal of ink and a high quality image is achieved. While the mezzotint technique was first developed in Germany in 1642, it was especially popular in England from 1750-1850 as a means of reproducing portraits and other oil paintings. The end result is an image similar in tonality to a sharply contrasted, extremely well-defined black and white photograph, which in some instances was then hand painted with watercolors to be more reminiscent of the original painting. Cook's portrait received both treatments. Charles Turner (1774-1857), a well-known and prolific English printmaker, made an engraving of Cook's portrait in 1837, as shown by the below left image. The impression on the below right is made from Turner's same plate, but watercolor has been added to the black and white rendering. Although the number of prints made by Turner is unknown, because the dots are not deep and the plate is smoothed a bit with each print produced, the mezzotint process is normally limited to 100-200 copies of acceptable quality.


Courtesy of McCord Museum, acc #M7944 and acc #M2003.145.11

Mezzotint, inscribed in the plate as follows:
HIS EXCELLENCY SIR FRANCIS BOND HEAD. BART: K.C.H.
Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, &c. &c. &c.
From an Original Picture painted at the solicitation of the inhabitants of the City of Toronto.
This Plate is respectfully dedicated to
Her Most Gracious Majesty's Loyal Canadian Subjects by their fellow Citizen & most obt. Humle. Servt.
Frederick Chase Capreol.
Published Octr. 10, 1837 by Fred C. Capreol, Toronto, Upper Canada: & in London for the Proprietor. by Messrs. Dominic Colnaghi & Co. Printsellers, 14 Pall Mall East. & Mr. Leggatt, Printsellers, 85, Cornhill. l.l.; Painted by Nelson Cook, Esqre. l.r.; Engraved by C. Turner, A.R.A.

[NOTE: The abbreviated title, BART: K.C.H., following Head's name above, stands for "1st Baronet, Knight Commander of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order."]

Sir John Beverley Robinson (1837) (Location unknown)
(b. Berthier, Lower Canada, 1791 - d. 1863; in War of 1812 militia LT under Isaac Brock at Queenston Heights; also at Detroit and the taking of York (Toronto) by US forces, where he was captured; became Acting Attorney General in 1813, was Solicitor General after the War, and then returned to England to finish his legal studies; appointed Solicitor General once more and was elected to the Assembly in 1820; acted as Attorney-General until 1829, when he became Chief Justice (until 1862); Speaker of the Legislative Council and President of the Executive Council; first president of the Court of Error and Appeal; prominent member of the "Family Compact," a powerful group of wealthy, conservative Upper Canada office holders in the 1830s. Cook claimed him as friend and ally in his efforts to patent the Davenport "engine," describing him as "the most ultra tory [sic] in the Province -- a strong Church and State man -- & a bitter foe to Republic[an?]s [ie, Reformers?]… [he] virtually governs Upper Canada -- he has his prejudices, but he is a good & wise man…" [letter to Ransom, Toronto, 5 Dec 1836]. Father of John Beverly Robinson (1820-1887), who was a graduate of Upper Canada College in Toronto, ADC to Francis Bond Head, lawyer, mayor of Toronto, and Lt Governor of Upper Canada. Robinson Sr. painted as officer of militia; portrait apparently damaged and repainted in part.)

The Hon. (Dr.) John Rolph (1837) (Royal Ontario Museum)
(b. 4 Mar 1793, Thornbury, Gloucestershire, England - d. 19 Oct 1870, Toronto; known as the "Father of Medical Education in Upper Canada"; son of surgeon Dr. Thomas Rolph and Frances Petty Rolph, who emigrated to Canada ca 1808; John followed only in 1812 and returned to England to study both law (Cambridge) and medicine (Guy's & St Thomas's Hospital); in Canada he pursued both professions, was said to carry his legal briefs in one saddlebag, surgical gear in the other; fought the cholera epidemic of 1832 [which killed Barnabas Dickinson, Parrit Blaisdell, and the father of Mrs. Mary Telfer Baird]; active in politics, associated with ["the leader of," says Cook in letter, below] the Reform faction; represented Counties of Middlesex (1824) and Norfolk (1835); moved to York (Toronto, 1832) and started a med school; a secretive planner with William Mackenzie of the ill-fated 1837 Rebellion [see Francis Bond Head and Robert McVicar], he fled to Rochester, NY; returned to Toronto ca 1844, restarted a med school which eventually became part of Victoria College, where he was a controversial Dean; Minister of Crown Lands (1851-54). In a letter to Ransom [Toronto, 11 Oct 1837], Cook writes of the just-finished portrait, "it is painted for the Reformers of U.C. [I]t is to be engraved next spring…." [Was it?] Portrait 136X108 cm; listed in Toronto Society of Arts exhibit catalog for 1848 [see, eg, other TSA catalog works, Rev Harris and Gentleman]. Inscribed verso, on lining of the canvas: Painted by Nelson Cook S.A./U.C. 1837 [SA most likely refers to the Toronto Society of Artists and Amateurs. However, SA is sometimes used for sine anno = without year; even if so here, there is no doubt of the 1837 date. UC = Upper Canada]. ROM shows the portrait given by Rolph's son Thomas, 1934. In her 1961 book, The Life and Times of the Hon. John Rolph, M.D. (1793 - 1870), Marian A. Patterson writes: "Nelson Cook presents Rolph in the full rigor of life, as a slightly bald, keen-eyed, clean-shaven man. In contemporary circles, Cook was regarded as an artist of note and his works were given high praise in the columns of the daily press.....
A full length portrait of John Rolph, Esq. is particularly worthy of notice, not only for the peculiarly happy manner in which the artist has caught both the face and figure of that gentleman, but also for the very superior style in which the work is done.
- The Christian Guardian, Toronto, 26 July 1837

Patterson went on to write: "In his portrait study the artist has caught on his canvas a suggestion of the strength and force of character which sustained this 'Grit Reformer' through the many political and professional tribulations of his tempestuous life.")


With permission of the Royal Ontario Museum © ROM, #2002.95.5012

Mary Amelia Dalrymple (nee Head) (1837) (Location unknown)
(Sister of Sir Francis Bond Head, daughter of James Roper and Frances Anne Head; m. Lt Gen Samuel Dalrymple 10 May 1831, the General d 1832. This portrait is assumed only from a mention in Cook's letter to Ransom from Toronto, 19 October 1837: "I am now painting Sir Francis Head's Sister, Mrs. Dalrymple". Whether he finished such a painting or whether it exists today is unknown.)

Portrait of a Gentleman, possibly Thomas Davenport (ca 1837) (Private Collection)
[Also see Letters From Canada which includes an extensive biography of Thomas Davenport]
(b. 9 Jul 1802, Williamstown, VT - d. 6 Jul 1851, Salisbury, VT and buried at Pine Hill Cemetery in Brandon, VT; blacksmith-turned-inventor who developed the first "electromagnetic motor" in 1834 [see picture below] and for which he then received the first US patent in 1837 while in partnership with Nelson Cook's brother, Ransom, and while Nelson was serving as Davenport's patent agent in Canada; married Emily Goss (ca. 1810 - ca. 1862) and had at least two sons: George Daniel Davenport (1832 - 1864, a casualty of the Civil War Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia) and Willard Goss Davenport (1843 - 1919). The 21 1/4" X 27 1/4" painting came from a Newport, RI estate with a note on the back saying the portrait depicted Thomas Davenport. Both Cowan's in Cincinnati and Skinner in Boston concurred with the sitter's identity based on the painting's likeness to a known ca. 1850 Davenport daguerreotype, a copy of which also was on the back of the portrait. Although unsigned and undated, both Cowan's and Skinner attributed the portrait to Cook based on the artist's style and Ransom's & Nelson's business relationships with Davenport. The portrait's date was estimated by this site's caretakers based on Davenport's 1837 peak of notoriety, which coincided with the inventor's close association with the Cook brothers. Skinner put up the portrait for auction in November 2009, but the reserve price was not met and the painting went unsold at that time. Skinner said the painting had been lined and overly retouched, so much so that Davenport's clothing style (especially his tie) was inconsistent with that customary to his adult lifetime. Additionally, as of November 2009 the portrait was in poor condition with punctures, surface rubs / losses, & crazing.)



Alfred Patrick (1838) (Art Gallery of Ontario)
(Dates unknown. Chief Clerk of the House of Commons in Upper Canada (Ontario) Legislature for 37 years, followed by 13 years in the federal government until his retirement in 1879; married Tirzah Hopkins in 1837 -- the portrait apparently celebrated their marriage; their son was Allan/Alan Poyntz Patrick (1849-1948), prominent city father of Calgary.)

Tirzah Hopkins (1838) (Art Gallery of Ontario)
(Dates unknown; daughter of Caleb Hopkins, representative of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada (Ontario); m. Alfred Patrick in 1837; she and Alfred were the parents of Alan/Allan Poyntz Patrick (1849-1948), western rancher, surveyor, and prominent city father of Calgary.)

Edwin Forrest (1838?) (Location unknown)
(b. 9 Mar 1806 in Philadelphia, PA - d. 12 Dec 1872 in Philadelphia; mention of this painting appeared in an October 21, 1885 Utica Morning Herald newspaper article, which stated that Cook’s 1838 painting of Edwin Forrest as Shakespeare’s Coriolanus was being exhibited at a Rome, NY retail store. In all likelihood Forrest never sat for this portrait. Rather, while still in Canada honing his skills, Cook may have created his painting of Forrest from another artist’s rendering as a sample of his work for prospective sitters [see As a Portraitist]. Forrest was considered by many to be the first great “tragedian” of American theater; made his first acting appearance in 1820 and spent his career performing mostly Shakespeare to wide acclaim in the US and Europe; his personal life often outshone that of his stage characters: a simmering feud with actor William Charles Macready led to the NYC Astor Place Opera House riot killing 22 (1849), while a divorce trial pitting Forrest against wife Catherine Sinclair in 1851/52 produced sporadic performances thereafter.)

Portrait of a Gentleman (date?) (Location unknown)
(Displayed in 1847 at first exhibition of Toronto Society of Arts, catalog entry no. 121 ; catalog available at Metropolitan Toronto Library. Noted by SIRIS/Smithsonian American Art Museum, Pre-1877 Art Exhibition Catalogue Index.)