Recently, one of the many paintings from our collection was given a new lease on life. Thanks to the meticulous and professional work of our good friends at Legris Conservation Inc., we can now see the true beauty once hidden behind decades of soot, grime, and old varnish. The painting, View of the Ottawa River looking Southeast towards Parliament Hill and the Entrance to the Rideau Canal, was executed by the amateur hand of Ottawa teacher Annabella McLeod.
Born near Norway House, Manitoba (then Hudson’s Bay Company territory) on February 28, 1825, Annabella was the daughter of Scottish-born Chief Trader John McLeod and his wife Charlotte Pruden. She was the fourth of nine children.
After the death of her father in 1849, Annabella lived with her mother and siblings near Saint-André-d’Argenteuil, Deux Montagnes County, Canada East (Québec), where she is found on the 1851 census. She continued to live with her older brother Malcolm, a barrister, and her sisters Annie and Mary when they all relocated, first to Aylmer, PQ, and later, around 1889, to Ottawa. While living in Ottawa, Annabella found employment as a teacher at a parish school. She first lived on Besserer Street and then Cliff Street, and later, in 1895, at 72 Vittoria Street (north of Wellington).
By the time of the 1901 census, Annabella and Annie were living alone in Ottawa, their brother having passed away in 1889. Annie and Annabella passed away with several months of one another; Annie in July and Annabella in October of 1904.
Although the painting is not dated, Annabella must have painted it sometime after 1876 when the Library of Parliament was completed, possibly while she was residing in Aylmer, PQ. Annabella’s older sister Flora had married the son of itinerant American-born artist Moses Pierce in 1842 at Trois-Rivières, Québec. One can’t help but wonder if Pierce’s influence was felt throughout the family; he indeed painted portraits of her father John and older brother Malcom (held by Library and Archives Canada), as well as a double-portrait of sisters Annie and Mary McLeod (P623), currently on display in Bytown Museum: A Century of Community.
Bytown Museum: A Century of Community is on view at the Bytown Museum until February 19, 2018.