Born in Ireland, Paul Kane came to Canada as a boy and studied art at Upper Canada College. He developed an interest in the natives of what is now western Canada. Following a visit to London where he saw an exhibition of Indian paintings by George Catlin he wrote, "On my return to Canada from the continent where I had passed nearly four years in studying my profession as a painter, I determined to devote whatever talents and proficiency I possessed to the painting of a series of picutres illustrative of the North American Indians and scenery."
During his visit to the Canadian Rockies in 1846, Paul Kane travelled over Athabasca Pass in November, returning to the prairies again via the same pass the following year. Both trips over the pass were made in very cold weather.
Kane's sketches and watercolours chronicle the west in the years prior to photography. Following his return to Toronto, he spent six years making a series of 100 large oil paintings from his work.
A painting by Paul Kane sold for $4.6 million, more money than any other Canadian painting, in February, 2002. It featured Sir John Henry Lefroy, an astronomer who became the head of the Toronto Observatory. Between 1842 and 1844 he travelled over 8800 km in the Canadian north making magnetic and meterorological observations, eventually mapping the location of the northern magnetic pole. Mount Lefroy was named in his honour in 1858 by James Hector of the Palliser Expedition.
[Additional information: "The Canadian Rockies" by Esther Fraser; page 50]