Following the British conquest of New France in 1760, a rich "garrison" culture developed in Quebec City, the new military and administrative centre of British North America. Fed by an expanding military presence and a steady stream of English-speaking immigrants, this flourishing society peaked at about the middle of the 19th century. While most of the artists within the anglophone community until then were amateurs, usually army officers, there were some professionals, and the most notable of these was Robert Todd.
Little is known of Todd's life. He settled in Quebec City in 1835, advertising himself as a "house, sign, carriage and ornamental painter," and stayed until 1853. Of the few paintings by Todd that have come to light, the majority depict British officers displaying their teams and sleighs on the ice before Montmorency Falls, a favourite winter resort of the garrison community just outside Quebec City. One of the largest and arguably the most beautiful of these, the AGO's version of the theme shows an officer, whose splendidly turned-out groom, Arabian team, and richly detailed sleigh, all meticulously described in a highly developed provincial neoclassical style, extend across the whole scene. Recent conservation has revealed that the landscape was completed first, then set aside to await a commission to fill it with figures, both of the stock variety, as in the lower right, and highly personalized.