19th-century painter Caroline Louisa Daly finally gets credit for paintings

Nearly 125 years after her death, the Confederation Centre Art Gallery is transferring credit for six paintings in its collection to Caroline Louisa Daly.

Paintings originally attributed to men

Paige Matthie spent two years researching the life and art of Caroline Louisa Daly. (Mitch Cormier/CBC)

Nearly 125 years after her death, the Confederation Centre Art Gallery is transferring credit for six paintings in its collection to Caroline Louisa Daly.

The works — including scenes of whale strandings, P.E.I.'s Government House and the inside of a sailing ship — were thought to be painted by Charles L. Daly or John Corry Wilson Daly from Ontario.

'That's a mistake I'm very happy to correct.- Paige Matthie, curator Introducing  Caroline Louisa Daly

Then, in 2014 Richard Jenkins visited P.E.I. from England and stopped by an art showing at Government House, where his great-grandmother Caroline lived in the late 1850s.

"Having a few samples of her work in his family archives [he] was able to look at the work, the signatures, the labels and say 'hey there's something wrong here, they're not by who you think they are,'" said Paige Matthie who got to sort the whole mess out.

Ice Cone at Montmorenci Seen from Above was painted Caroline Louisa Daly as she travelled the colonies with her father. (Library and Archives Canada)
The registrar at the Confederation Art Gallery has spent the two years since his visit working on giving the proper attribution to Daly.

"We kind of started with a biographical study that traced the movements of all those that are in involved. To try and put them on the map at certain times," explained Matthie.

"Is there any proof for any of these people where the artwork says they were."

Matthie learned Charles Daly had never been to Prince Edward Island, while Caroline Louisa Daly, no relation, lived at Government House with her father  Lt.-Gov. Sir Dominick Daly, who served the Crown on P.E.I. between 1854-1859.   

Mystery solved when paintings compared

Two paintings of a whale stranded at Tracadie Harbour were thought to have been painted by two separate people, Charles Daly and Caroline Louisa Daly. 

"We were able to piece the story together with enough historical proof to say 'no these are actually all Caroline Louisa Daly,'" Matthie said.

Daly's work is held in private collections and those of Library and Archives Canada and the Public Archives and Records Office in P.E.I. However, she was not a professional painter, or professional anything else for that matter — she enjoyed a life of privilege seeing the world as her father travelled the colonies for the British Crown.

'A mistake I'm very happy to correct'

Matthie's 30-page report is available for anyone who wishes to read it, and the six paintings owned by the gallery are now properly credited to Caroline Louisa Daly.

"We had artworks that we were presenting … fairly frequently throughout the gallery's history without giving her proper credit," said Matthie.

"That's a mistake I'm very happy to correct."

So was her family — they donated six of Daly's paintings, doubling the gallery's collection of her works.

Introducing Caroline Louisa Daly opens Jan. 14 and is on exhibit until May 7 at the Confederation Centre gallery.