George William Hill was born in Shipton, Eastern Townships, in 1862. He learned to carve marble in his father’s company, after he graduated from college. Between 1889 and 1894, he left Québec to study sculpting at the École nationale des beaux-arts and Académie Julian in Paris. When he returned to Montréal, he opened a studio and worked with the architect Robert Findlay and brothers Edward and William S. Maxwell. Known for his public monuments and war memorials, he is now considered one of the most important Canadian sculptors of the early twentieth century. The National Gallery of Canada, the Musée du Québec, and the Montréal Museum of Fine Art have artworks by him in their collections.
This pink-granite fountain-monument is composed of a pedestal, with a lion lying on top of it. On the pedestal are engraved escutcheons celebrating events, inventions, and individuals who marked the reign of Queen Victoria: the first world’s fair, the telephone, the electric light bulb, Dickens, Darwin, and so on. A drinking fountain is also imbedded in the pedestal; the current fountain was reconstructed in 2009 on the model of the original fountain.
The lion symbolizes British strength and protection. This is a copy, at a scale of about 1:10, of the French sculptor August Bartholdi’s Lion de Belfort. The original artwork overlooks the Belfort citadel and measures 22 m in length and 11 m in height. Produced between 1875 and 1880, it is carved from the site’s red sandstone. The Montréal lion was George William Hill’s first public commission. The pedestal was designed by the architect Robert Findlay.