header image

Back to Home Page


Richard George Mathews - famed Montreal Star Newspaper artist ...

"The Montreal Star is probably the first daily newspaper on the American continent in which news illustrations appeared as a regular feature. Among other staff artists, R. G. Mathews has gained a most enviable reputation as a particularly strong "sketcher", doing most of the important news work of that paper". These complementary words were used in trade journals of the time to describe his stature in the publishing industry. The London National Portrait Gallery web site (Link), now briefly describes Mathews as an accomplished illustrator and portrait artist, and features a few previews of his excellent drawings and a drypoint etching.

"Born in Montreal, Mathews first published drawings in the satirical paper, Grip in 1892. After a period working in New York he joined The Montreal Star as a reportage artist, making his reputation in the Montreal art community with portraits of visiting celebrities. He moved to London in 1907, continuing to send work to the Star whilst increasingly contributing to leading London illustrated magazines, The Graphic and The Bystander, and exhibiting his celebrity portraits, publishing a number as etchings. In later years, he recorded Canadian soldiers during the First World War and moved from portraiture to landscape and architectural subjects. From 1935 he contributed scenes of London life to The Tatler."

 

Picturing the arrival of the Doukhobors in Halifax ...

Microfilm reels in the Canadian national archives include clippings and full page selections from a number of historical Canadian and American newspapers, not surprisingly including a few from the Winnipeg Free Press which was owned by Clifford Sifton, the Canadian Minister of the Interior. Sifton was aggressively promoting immigration as a means of populating the vast empty Canadian prairie interior, and we might have expected to find coverage of the Doukhobor emigration to Canada in this paper to demonstrate the fruition of his policies. (Link) But it was interesting to find that R.G. Mathews, and of course his employers, the editors of the Montreal Star, also considered the arrival of the Doukhobors in 1899 to be sufficiently news worthy, dedicating full page detailed and overwhelmingly positive coverage of that event.

This web page will focus primarily on two pages from the Montreal Daily Star - published on Saturday, January 28, 1899, about two weeks after the arrival of the Doukhobors to Halifax. The pages can be viewed at the bottom of this web page, and although somewhat blurry, the text itself is generally legible on closer inspection. We have taken the liberty of extracting and restyling a number of R.G. Mathews' sketches from these pages to demonstrate what they may have looked like, should they have been presented as individual graphic works of art. And we begin with the following portrait of Leopold Shulerzhitsky for good reason.

 


A follower of Leo Tolstoy, Shulerzhitsky was asked to assist with the logistics of the emigration, arriving at Batum on the Black Sea to await the exiled emigrants and arrange the procurement of their passports, provisions and accommodations at the seaport, as well as the hiring and outfitting of the steamships themselves. He collaborated with Sergei Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy's son, in this effort, and both of them accompanied the Doukhobors across the Atlantic to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Shulerzhitsky with over 2000 Doukhobors on the first voyage on board the S.S. Lake Huron, and Sergei Tolstoy on the following voyage of the S.S. Lake Superior. They both kept daily journals of their voyages and later published extraordinary accounts of their experiences. The Doukhobor emigration has also been documented extensively elsewhere and we will not attempt to do so here, other than to describe a few details relevant to the content of this web page.

After a long difficult journey over heavy seas, the S.S. Lake Huron quietly anchored in the Halifax harbour on the afternoon of the 12th of January, 1899, and awaited word from immigration officials and harbour quarantine inspectors. Being made aware of the recent stormy weather in the North Atlantic, they had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the immigrants for days, fearing the worst. Dr. Montizambre and two medical inspectors first approached the S.S. Huron in a small boat to communicate with the captain regarding the health and welfare of the crew and passengers. That being confirmed, and shortly thereafter, a group of a dozen or so other individuals approached and circled the immigrant steamer on the "Herbert Hoover", a tugboat hired by the government. On board were representatives from the Canadian and American immigration departments, the Beaver Steamship Line, the CPR company, the Society of Friends and various local and distant newspapers. They were also accompanied by Tolstoyan, Prince Khilkoff and the two Doukhobor representatives, Peter Makhortoff and Ivan Ivin, who had previously come to Canada with Aylmer Maude to make arrangements for the Doukhobor settlement in advance. Two Montreal Star pressmen, a W.R. Smith and Richard George Mathews were also observed on the "Hoover". No one was however permitted to board ship until given authorization by medical examiners. With emotional greetings exchanged, many plaintive psalms of appreciation sung, and their general well being tentatively confirmed, the immigrants spent their first night in Canada in the Halifax harbour on the S.S. Lake Huron.

Quarantine inspections of the boat and examinations of individual passengers took place the following morning wth Dr. Montizambre and his staff at the quarantine station on Lawlor's Island nearby. All looked well and curious Canadians and news reporters, including Montreal Star's Smith and artist Mathews, were finally permitted to go on board. Leopold Shulerzhitsky's description of the moment and the first actual footsteps of the Doukhobor immigrants on Canadian soil, included these words ...

"Once the examination was over we were allowed to go [ashore] where we wished. In no time, several brisk journalists in redneck ties came onto the ship with free, confident movements. They began writing down all the information they needed. One of them [likely R.G. Mathews] very effectively made drawings, one after another, now drawing unfamiliar types, now whole groups of Doukhobors. He even got to the bunk areas and continued to draw and make notes. Others wrote biographies of Bokov and Makhortoff and drew pictures of them."

The S.S. Lake Huron then continued on its planned route to St. John the next day, where arrangements had been made with the CPR for special colonist trains to carry them further west. W.R. Smith, the Star reporter, and two others also accompanied them on this leg of the sea voyage to continue their interviews. Smith's reportage can be viewed on the microfilmed pages of the Montreal Daily Star at the bottom of this web page and a number of R.G. Mathews' drawings, many of which were created on board the S.S. Lake Huron, are shown below.


The following ink drawings of the two Ivin and Makhortoff Doukhobor families who had come to Canada in advance of the immigrants, also appeared in the Montreal Star (Link), the Montreal Weekly Witness (Link) and other newspapers, although the "sketcher" was not specifically identified. There is little doubt however that they were adapted from four studio publicity photos, presumably taken near that time as examples of typical healthy Doukhobor families. The photographs were also widely circulated elsewhere, as seen in the aforementioned Winnipeg Free Press page clipping and in the Toronto Globe clips to be seen further below. These photographs may have been taken in England where the families are known to have been prior to coming to Canada. A studio mark faintly visible in the lower right hand corner of another higher quality image of the Makhortoffs may offer clues. (Link) It is also interesting to note that Leopold Shulerzhitsky had identified Peter Makhortoff (that he had observed on the Herbert Hoover), to be in fact, the son of the elderly veteran of Inkerman and Sebastopol. The old sailor had almost immediately recognized his son on the Halifax tugboat and tearfully greeted him with joy and admiration from the deck of the S.S. Lake Huron.

 

 

 

Click newspaper previews to view zoomable version.

Back to Home Page