Letter to the Editor: Sir Isaac Brock Statue is inaccurate

Letter to the Editor:

As the only person sufficiently interested in Sir Isaac Brock to make a decade-long study of his various portraits (most of which are spurious), I was apprehensive at the news of yet another statue of the great man.  This because I knew that all previous attempts to accurately represent Brock’s likeness in posthumous works of art had failed miserably.  The problem in each case was a lack of visual information.
 
Just two portraits of Brock are known to be authentic.  One is a watercolour miniature which shows him as a young ensign in 1785; the other is a small profile, painted in pastels and dating to 1809 or 1810.  The profile portrait is the most relevant to Canadian history, as it depicts Brock just a few years before he achieved fame as the “Hero of Upper Canada.”  Unfortunately, it also leaves much to be desired, namely the other side of the hero’s illustrious face.

Sir Isaac Brock Statue - Brock University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only way to fill this void was by means of artistic license, and the results were always the same:  more imagined than real.

But in the case of the most recent attempt to immortalize Brock, I was cautiously optimistic that things might be different.  After all, the artist chosen to undertake the work was Danek Mozdzenski, the same sculptor who gave us the statue of Lester B. Pearson on Parliament Hill – a spot-on rendition of the Canadian prime minister.
 
I lived in hope that he might be able to achieve his goal by combining the aforementioned accurate images, while at the same time keeping artistic license to an absolute minimum.

 I was sadly mistaken, however.  The face he conjured up was that of a young man, and a young man who looked nothing like Brock.  Adding insult to injury was the contorted pose, with one leg propped up on a campaign chest and looking somewhat reminiscent of an advert for Captain Morgan’s Rum.  As for the open arms grasping at thin air, a book of some kind was used to counteract the extreme awkwardness of the composition.  But this essential prop is absent in the finished product, which might cause some people to wonder if an accordion was originally meant to fill the empty space.  Another cause for complaint is the ill-fitting uniform, which gives no clue as to Brock’s true physique.  Nor is it the myth of a man with a 47 inch waist, but rather a big man who carried his weight well.  Instead, what we have is a rather scrawny looking character.

In short, there is nothing heroic about the hero’s statue. While the late David S. Howes cannot be faulted for his generosity in donating a statue of Sir Isaac Brock, the selection committee – by failing to make any provision for historical accuracy – have unwittingly straddled Brock University with an inaccurate, bronze behemoth.


-Guy St-Denis

(Guy St-Denis is researching a new biography of Sir Isaac Brock, and in the process he has become well versed on the hero’s portraiture)

 

* The aforementioned authentic portraits of Sir Isaac Brock are displayed below, courtesy of Guernsey Museums & Galleries.

His miniature, by Philip Jean, was painted in 1785 and shows Isaac Brock as a young ensign Courtesy: Guernsey Museums & Galleries

 

This profile portrait was painted by Gerrit Schipper during Brock's last posting to Quebec City, sometime in 1809 or 1810.  The uniform is that of a brigadier general.  Courtesy Guernsey Art Gallery and Museum. Courtesy: Guernsey Museums & Galleries

This profile portrait was painted by Gerrit Schipper during Brock’s last posting to Quebec City, sometime in 1809 or 1810. The uniform is that of a brigadier general. 

 

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