Portrait of A.C. Rankin and His Brother Playing Lacrosse


Portrait of A.C. Rankin and His Brother Playing Lacrosse


This portrait of two boys playing lacrosse is both a photograph and a painting, created by applying paint to a photograph. The portrait was produced by William Notman’s studio, which had artists on staff to transform photographs like this one into works of fine art. This family portrait points towards the twentieth-century tradition of family snapshots. However, due to its large size and painted surface, the result is less like a family snapshot and more like an elite portrait painting, comparable to Thomas Gainborough’s The Painter’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly (1759). This example demonstrates one way that photography could serve as a “humble servant” of art, as Charles Baudelaire suggested in 1859, and of the concern—also articulated by Baudelaire—that photography’s dependence on realism would stifle the artist’s imagination.

William Notman opened his first photographic studio in 1856 in Montreal, and later expanded to additional cities in Canada. His studios attracted an elite clientele, and his 1865 publication Portraits of British Americans highlights some of the well-known figures who had their photographs taken by Notman’s firm. 


William Notman (photographer)
Eugène L'Africain (colourist)


72.4 x 51.6 cm
TR 140 N68 N913 1887 folio


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William Notman (photographer) Eugène L'Africain (colourist), “Portrait of A.C. Rankin and His Brother Playing Lacrosse,” Bruce Peel Special Collections Library Online Exhibits, accessed July 24, 2024, https://omeka.library.ualberta.ca/items/show/3053.

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