William Valentine (painter)

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William Valentine - Self Portrait, Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management

William Valentine (1798 in Whitehaven, England – 26 December 1849 in Halifax, Nova Scotia) was a portrait painter and daguerreotypist who immigrated to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1818 at age 20.[1] He was a relative and pupil of Robert Field. After Field he was the most important portrait painter in 19th-century Nova Scotia. He was also the first known photographer in Atlantic Canada. There are efforts being made to have a monument made to commemorate Valentine's contribution to Nova Scotia.[2]


Valentine's earliest paintings date from 1827. His main interest was in portraits, but occasionally he depicted historical subjects, such as King John signing Magna Charta, done about 1830 and now in the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

About 1836 Valentine travelled to England, where he studied the well-known painters of the day such as Sir Thomas Lawrence and made copies of their works. The experience had a noticeable effect on his painting, which improved markedly in tone and colour; and from the time he returned about March 1837 until 1844 he enjoyed his best success. A few years before his death a fire in his studio destroyed many of his pictures and damaged his photographic apparatus, and this disaster is said to have hastened his end. It is not known how many portraits Valentine executed – the historian Harry Piers estimated between 125 and 150[3] – and there has never been a comprehensive exhibition of his work.

He was the first professional photographer in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and probably in Newfoundland; having acquired equipment in Boston, he began advertising his new business while in Saint John, New Brunswick on 15 November 1841,[4] on his way back to Halifax. His efforts as a travelling daguerreotypist took him also to Newfoundland in March 1843.[5] He traveled as well to Prince Edward Island as a portrait artist, and, although no evidence has been found of him having advertised his newfound skills in daguerreotype photography there, historians have speculated that "He might also have taken the first in Prince Edward Island."[6]

His body was buried in Camp Hill Cemetery, Halifax.



External links[edit]


  • Halpenny, Francess G, ed. (1988). "William Valentine". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. VII (1836–1850) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  1. ^ Canadian Biography Online
  2. ^ https://www.halifaxtoday.ca/local-news/william-valentine-tribute-should-be-included-in-cogswell-redevelopment-says-photographer-1071870
  3. ^ Harry Piers, “Artists in Nova Scotia,” N.S. Hist. Soc., Coll., 18 (1914): 101–65.
  4. ^ Social History and Photography: The Atlantic Region, 1870-1920, published by Art Gallery of Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS, 1990
  5. ^ Social History and Photography: The Atlantic Region, 1870-1920, published by Art Gallery of Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS, 1990
  6. ^ Scott Robson, "From Daguerreotype to Disposable Camera: 150 Years of Photography," The Occasional, Nova Scotia Museum, 1989
  7. ^ http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?id_nbr=3945
  8. ^ http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=4563