Stunning Art by "Canadian Audubon" Added to Digital Archive

January 5, 2018 | David

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Portrait of William Pope
William Pope portrait (at around 80 years old) by W. E. Cantelon

William Pope (1811-1902) was born in Kent, England. He journeyed to North America in 1834, "perhaps by the news of abundant game and no hunting restrictions." Hunting was not his only interest — he also had an interest in arts and received a formal arts education. After travelling through parts of the United States and Upper Canada, he made his home on a farm in Port Ryerse, Ontario. (The 19th-Century Journals & Paintings of William Pope)

As Canada's first artist-naturalist, Pope is known for his watercolours of birds. His work is often compared to the works of John James Audubon. Pope's invaluable sketches, paintings and journals detail regional fauna and flora from the mid-19th century. (The 19th-Century Journals & Paintings of William Pope and William Pope plaque,

Here is some praise for Pope:

"The drawings of Canadian birds, made by Mr. Pope... will rank among the best work of this class ever done. The coloration of the plumage in most of them is remarkable for its accuracy and the attitude of the subject is in all cases natural and characteristic of the species delineated." -C. W. Nash, biologist (Ornithological Collection, 1919) 

"[His work] is now recognized as a major contribution to the Canadian heritage." (The 19th-Century Journals & Paintings of William Pope, 1976)


Book cover with an illustration by William Pope

Most of Pope's original works were given to the Toronto Public Library and thanks to an extensive conservation project, Pope's artwork has been preserved and, just recently, made available for instant access in the library's Digital Archive. (Visiting the Digital Archive allows you to see the full-sized images, revealing Pope's astonishing level of detail.) You can find the library's full set of original works by Pope in the Baldwin Collection of Canadiana on the fifth floor of the Toronto Reference Library.

Below is a selection of his artwork made with pen and ink, watercolour and scraping out on wove paper:


RingNecked Duck illustration

Ring-Necked Duck, 1843


White-Breasted Nuthatch illustra

White-Breasted Nuthatch, 1843


The Hudsonian Godwit illustration

The Hudsonian Godwit, 1844


Black and White Warbler illustration

Black and White Warbler, 1845


Piping Plover illustration

Piping Plover, 1845


Illustration of two Maryland  Yellow-Throats

Maryland Yellow-Throat, 1847


Trumpeter Swan illustration

Trumpeter Swan, 1847


Red Eyed Vireo illustration

Red-Eyed Vireo, 1847


Pintail Duck illustration

Pintail Duck, 1847


 Chesnut sided warbler illustration

Chestnut Sided Warbler, 1860s


Illustration of male and female passenger pigeons

The Passenger Pigeon, 1860s


Double-crested cormorant illustration

Double-Crested Cormorant, 1865



You may also be interested in the works of John James Audubon (1785-1851), to whom Pope is often compared. Read more about Audubon and the Toronto Public Library's collection of his work or explore hundreds of his works in the Digital Archive.

Had you heard of William Pope before this post? Let us know in the comments!