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 Catherine Margaret Reynolds  (1784 - 1864)



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Lived/Active: Michigan/Ontario / Canada      Known for: landscape and frontier settlement scenes-watercolor, sepia

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
One of the earlier artists of the Detroit River region, Catherine Reynolds was a self-taught landscape and river scene painter, primarily between the years of 1810 and 1820.  She was also a prolific copyist of European subjects.

Reynolds was born in Detroit, which was then a part of Canada, where her father, Thomas Reynolds, a member of the British Army, was Commissary at Detroit.  The family was prominent in the British community, when Detroit was part of British North America.  They lived within the Fort on a lot purchased by them in 1780 on St. Louis Street.  The 1782 census lists three boys and two girls in the household.

She lived there until 1796, when, because of Detroit being ceded to the United States, she moved to Ontario with her family to Amherstburg on the British side of the Detroit River.  She remained there the rest of her life.  Her brother, Robert Reynolds, served there as Deputy Commissary to the garrison at Fort Malden, and she lived with the family at Fort Malden.  In 1819, nine years after the death of Thomas, whose job as Commissary was assumed by his son, Robert Reynolds, she moved into the new family home at Bellevue.  The building was overseen by Robert after his return from the War of 1812.  He had decided that he and his family, including his wife Therese Bouchette Des Rivieres, needed a spacious mansion-like home by themselves instead of living in military housing.  He selected a site facing the river just south of the town, and the building, likely completed in 1819, commenced in 1816.

A watercolour by Catherine Reynolds, who never married, said to date from 1820, shows the view of the house from the east, and it appears to be complete, even to the addition of the out buildings.  A visiting author, William C. Coffin, aptly describes both Reynolds and the house.  He wrote: “All men who know Amherstburg, or Malden, as it is often called, know Squire Reynolds.  There is not in all the Western Counties a man better known or more respected … He lives in a snug homestead, more villa than farmhouse … embedded in a grove of fine old pine trees.” (Ontario Heritage Foundation)

In 1962, because of being exemplary of domestic Georgian architecture, Bellevue was designated an official historic structure by the provincial Department of Travel and Publicity.

"About thirty works have been attributed to her, dating from about 1810-20 and consisting primarily of landscapes and scenes along the Detroit River and Lake Erie. " (Falk, 2748)  She worked in pencil, crayon, water color and sepia wash, and her artwork has proven to be an invaluable record of early 19th century life in the region.  Among her works are A View of
Amherstburg, 1813; The Commandant’s House at Amherstburg; Bellevue; Stowe;
and Chief
Joseph Brant’s House, Burlington.  
The Detroit Institute of Fine Arts and the Windsor Community Museum have drawings and paintings by Reynolds in their collections.

"She was was raised in the stimulating atmosphere of a garrison town. Along with the military, many merchants took up residence here, since they found that the Indian trade centring at this place could be very profitable.  At Col. Mathew Elliot’s home near the town, the Indians gathered each year for the annual distribution of presents from the government.  Catherine would have ample access and opportunity to meet the leaders of the colonial community, and doubtless this stimulated her natural artistic inclinations. " (Ontario Heritage Foundation)

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

Ontario Heritage Foundation:

Canadian Women Artists History Database

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