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Portrait of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock


Portrait of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, K.B. (6.10.1769-13.10.1812)

Artist:               Attributed to Gerrit Schipper (1775-1825)

Medium:          Pastel

Status:             Permanent Museum Collection. Bought with the assistance of the Wilfred Carey Purchase Fund.

Accession No.: GUEMG : GMAG 2009.52


This profile portrait of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock is attributed to the artist Gerrit Schipper (1775-1825). It was produced sometime between late May 1809 and mid-July 1810. Brock is wearing the uniform of a Brigadier-General and Staff Officer in the British Army in Canada. What makes this portrait so special is that it is thought to be the only likeness of Isaac Brock created during his lifetime.

Brock is regarded as one of Canada's great military heroes. He was born in the building which is now Boots in St Peter Port. Brock entered the British army as an ensign in 1785, was made Lieutenant Colonel of the 49th Regiment in 1797 and in 1802 was sent to Canada. He was promoted to Colonel in 1805 and Major General in 1811. In 1810 he assumed command over all troops in Upper Canada (now Ontario), and the following year he took over the civil administration of the province.

With the outbreak of war between Great Britain and the United States in 1812, he undertook the defence of Upper Canada and organised the militia. On 15 August 1812 with British soldiers, Canadian militia and crucially allied with First Nations tribes commanded by Shawnee First Nations Chief Tecumseh, he took Detroit from US forces against great odds. As a result of this achievement he was awarded a knighthood of the Order of the Bath. On 13 October 1812 his army won the Battle of Queenston Heights on the Niagara frontier, but he was mortally wounded. Britain had lost its most able commander in North America, but Canada had gained a hero.

Profile portraits are one of the earliest forms of portraiture and were seen in early Egyptian art and on Roman coins. Generally, profile portraits appear more formal that the three-quarter or full-face view, which appear to be more natural and less posed. The formality of the profile portrait lent itself well to depicting military figures and leaders. This straightforward no frills depiction of a person's features combined with the association with great rulers of the past immediately gave the sitter an air of superiority and strength.