A “likely” portrait of Captain George Vancouver will be available to the public at the Royal B.C. Museum for the first time. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Controversial portrait could open dialogue on colonialism

“Likely” portrait of Captain George Vancouver soon available to public for the first time sparking debate at Royal BC Museum

Is it or isn’t it Capt. George Vancouver?

A portrait disputed by some as not even being Captain George Vancouver, is set to spark conversations on the origins of the late 1700’s oil painting as well as the role of explorers like Vancouver in colonialization. The oil painting will be installed in the Becoming B.C. Gallery at the Royal BC Museum later this year.

“George Vancouver is one of those nodes where we can take something traditional and tell a heroic and important story,” said history curator of the Royal BC Museum, Lorne Hammond. “And at the same time, we can turn to the First Nations community and say what does it mean when someone comes and replaces your names for places with names of naval officers and friends of theirs?”

Even the painting itself has sparked debate on whether it is in fact a portrait of George Vancouver, or his brother John, who took over some of his work after George’s death from thyroid problems at the age of 40. The city of Vancouver on the Mainland and Vancouver Island are named after the explorer and the explorer named the Burrard Inlet among many others. He is also credited for mapping more than 65,000 miles of coast, 10,000 of which were done in small rowboats.

“George Vancouver is significant to the charting of British Columbia, significant to the naming of places,” said Hammond. “But we also want to re explore all of our galleries not as a tribute to European explorers, but to bring in all of the narratives of British Columbia.”


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