Expulsion of the Acadians from Ile St. Jean in 1758 A.D.
All materials and images © Copyright Lewis Parker 2011
The Expulsion of the Acadians, also known as the Great Upheaval, the Great Expulsion and Le Grand Dérangement, was the
forced removal by the British of the Acadian people from the present day Canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New
Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and also part of the US state of Maine—an area also known as Acadie. The Expulsion
(1755–1763) occurred during the French and Indian War (the North American theatre of the Seven Years War). It was part of
the British military campaign against New France. The British first deported Acadians to the Thirteen Colonies, and after
1758 they transported additional Acadians to France. Approximately 11,500 Acadians were deported by the British.
This is the first painting Lewis Parker did for Parks Canada. The illustration was commissioned specifically to be used in a
film presentation for Fort Amherst National Historic Park, with close-up photography being envisioned for virtually every
corner of the painting. Accordingly, great care was taken to make sure that anything that appeared in the composition could
be documented to be correct, from costumes to house construction details to the packages being carried away. Parks
Canada historians, curators and interpreters gave Parker the information he needed; the artist did the rest. The end result is
a poignant scene, with hundreds of Acadians slowly descending to their fate. The composition has drama, and yet how
different it is from earlier depictions of the Acadian deportations and from history paintings of the baroque period where the
moral was the message.
In Parker's and Parks Canada's version of the Acadian story there is no central figure or figures. Instead, the artist has come
up with a composition consisting of a serpentine exodus of a mostly faceless people. This is the element that commands the
eye's attention. These Acadians are being expelled by soldiers just doing their duty. There are no heroes, no villains, no
tragic separation of lovers from each other or parents from their children, no real suffering; although if we know our history we
read all this into the scene. To the surprise of a classical history painter, could one but see the work, there is no allegory and
no symbols. This is literal history, as it may well have been. Praiseworthy, certainly. The composition selected, however, does
meet another objective. It is neutral enough on emotional grounds so that no modern Canadian, from either of the two main
linguistic communities, could find any reason to object to it. In that sense, the painting reflects the socio-political context in
which it was painted.