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Watercolour showing iceberg rising out of water, with small sailing ships passing by, and storm clouds, 1818
Watercolour showing wooden military platform near shoreline, with cannon and officer looking through telescope, 1824
Oil painting showing farmers with their horses and wagon, gathering hay in field, circa 1880
Watercolour showing waterfalls and rocky landscape, with figures in foreground, circa 1785
Watercolour showing stranded whale  in waterway, with sailboat nearby, and figures on shoreline, 1857
Oil painting showing figures on road alongside shoreline, en route to town in the distance, 1840
Watercolour showing body of water and shoreline, with canoe, fort, and mountains in the distance, 1852
Print showing small settlement on narrow peninsula, with body of water, boats, figures and dense forest, 1761
Watercolour of waterfalls surrounded by rocks and trees, with figures in foreground, circa 1810
Watercolour showing view of waterway and mountains, with sailboat at left, circa 1876
Oil painting of two men in forest in winter, warming themselves by fire, with horse and felled trees, 1900-1942
Oil painting showing First Nations man launching canoe into rapids, with forest terrain in background, 1874
Watercolour showing waterfalls, with figures on rock ledge in foreground, and rainbow at left, circa 1805
Watercolour showing three people fishing at edge of marsh, with wooded hills in background, circa 1860
Watercolour showing forest interior, with base of massive tree at centre, man holding axe, and horse and rider, circa 1840
Watercolour showing trading post near body of water, with First Nations people, boats and tipis, circa 1857
Oil painting showing man on ox-drawn cart on muddy path, with farm buildings on each side, circa 1870
Watercolour showing people with bundles on their backs, trekking through wooded hills, 1825
Watercolour showing man shooting ducks in prairie field, with emigrant wagon train in distance, 1862
Watercolour of body of water with mountains in background and figures at shore, including one firing a gun, circa 1835
Watercolour showing men on snowshoes carrying rifles and backpacks, ascending a snow-covered mountain path, 1846
Oil painting showing Victoria, British Columbia, with figure carrying umbrella in foreground, circa 1888
Print showing ship at sea, surrounded by ice floes, with mountains in background, 1850
Print showing side of mountain streaked with purple fireweed, and creek in foreground, 1898
Print showing waterfall descending into clouds of vapour and a rainbow, with three people fishing in foreground, 1793


It has been said that Canada is defined by its geography. Certainly its history has been heavily shaped and formed by the landscape and the waters that Europeans encountered upon their arrival here. As explorers, naturalists, mariners, merchants and settlers arrived on the shores of Atlantic Canada, they were confronted by what they saw as a hostile and dangerous environment and an unforgiving sea. As they voyaged further north, they were met by both icebergs and an extremely cold climate. The Atlantic coast, while offering an abundance of fish, whales, seals, and fowl, was not highly conducive to settlement, having little arable land. As Europeans moved further into the continent, especially through the Gulf of St. Lawrence and up the river, they learned of numerous waterways, including the Ottawa, Saguenay, St. Francis and Richelieu rivers, and the Great Lakes, which provided easy access to an entire continent of wonders. However, the barrier formed by the Canadian Shield discouraged settlement further north and limited the establishment of communities to the narrow strips of arable land along the shores of rivers and lakes. Settlers also encountered a multitude of unfamiliar birds, animals, sea life and plants, and continued to learn of new species well into the late 19th century. Europeans tried to cope with the daunting new land by mapping, recording and claiming it as their own.

Explorers and traders also entered the continent from the north, via Hudson Bay, and from the south, via the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. In present-day Ontario, they met an enormous diversity of plant life and ecologies that had evolved as a result of the varied climate and geology of the region. With the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes forming a southern boundary, most of central Canada was easily traversed. In 1678, the newcomers first saw Niagara Falls, one of the most wondrous of North America's natural attractions.

The Northwest encompassed a wide range of geographic and climatic features. It was home to many different groups of Aboriginal peoples, and supported a variety of flora and fauna. European understanding of the specific nature of this land and its inhabitants varied greatly, with observations ranging from highly accurate and scientific to outlandish or fantastic. With time, the new settlers learned from the Aboriginal peoples about survival in potentially deadly environments, and adopted many of their housing and transportation methods, clothing, food sources and medicines.

The Pacific region was not seriously mapped and charted until the late 18th century. The treacherous waters off the coast were a hazard to navigation and to settlement; the numerous mountain ranges stretching from the northwest of present-day Yukon to the southeast of present-day British Columbia, limited exploration and settlement from both east and west. Moreover, the wide range of environmental conditions -- from the Pacific rain forest to the arid valleys of the interior, and from the Arctic temperatures of the far north to the mild temperatures of the lower mainland -- delayed the arrival of European settlers. However, these geographical and geological features and environmental conditions also produced a unique selection of flora, fauna and natural phenomena.

Last to be explored were the Arctic regions of what is now known as Canada. This part of the world resisted early efforts at exploration, as many Europeans perished in their attempts to find the Northwest Passage to the Far East. In the post-Napoleonic period, the British Navy renewed efforts to map the Arctic and to discover a water route to China. The many expeditions sent overland and by sea eventually helped complete the outlines of the map of Canada. By 1900, the map was almost completely filled in, providing a real sense of the country's magnificence.

We hope you enjoy these selections of landscape views, which are mostly from the Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana. They are augmented by works of art chosen from our permanent holdings for their informative value, aesthetic appeal and quality of execution -- that present a unique perspective on Canada's geography and landscape.

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