Envisioning the Natural Past
The paradoxical dual Romanticization of both Toronto's rural outskirts and the city's rapid growth continued in cultural memory of the period. On the city's 100th anniversary in 1934, the city commissioned artistic reflections on how the city was (implicitly: how the city has changed).
This lush map of Toronto is partically based on such historical documents as the Topographical Plan from the "British Uubanism and Bureaucracy" page. Another clear visual inspiration is the aquatint "York from Gibraltar Point", which is almost replicated in the enormous trees and surroundings at the bottom of the image (in tree positioning, cooking Native Americans, even ship placement). In its coloration, too, this map reflects the cultural memory of 'the bush', with its distinctly darkened forest territory as to the landscape's Northern reaches.
Not only do visual cultures influence the time in which they are created, but additionally reverberate into cultural memory of places and periods.
The final image in this exhibition is this gorgeous watercolor painting from 1907, purportedly of Toronto in 1834. The artist, Owen P. Staples, clearly took direct inspiration from the previously discussed aquatint of a similar view from 1835. Not only does Staples' image validate the persistent reach of the aquatint, but it also provides visual evidence of a tendency in cultural memory: Romanticization of human-nature interactions in the past.
Staples' choice of perspective for this image in 1907, a time of rapid urbanization and industrialization, provides a visual shock; bounteous rural land on the direct outskirts of the city center! Moreover, nature is even more prioritized here than Young's drawing from 1835, with human labor backgrounded in favor of greater detail given to the bay, marshland, and deep green trees. Torontoans of 1907 were clearly nostalgic for a more bucolic past, but as this exhibition has demonstrated, the seeds of their discontent lay in the urban and environemtal ideologies Torontoans of the mid-19th century held.