Clarence Gagnon: An Introduction to His Life and Art
Clarence Gagnon: An Introduction to His Life and Art
Clarence Gagnon: An Introduction to His Life and Art Clarence Gagnon: An Introduction to His Life and Art

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Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: Anne Newlands
Audience: Trade
Specs: 40 full color photographs, 10 black and white photographs, bibliography, index
Pages: 64
Trim Size: 9 1/8" x 9 1/8" x 1/4"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20050816
Copyright Year: 2005
Price: Select Below

Clarence Gagnon: An Introduction to His Life and Art

A well illustrated concise introduction to the art and life of Clarence Gagnon (1881-1942) one of Canada's best known painter noted especially for his paintings of sun-drenched winter landscapes.

Born in 1881 in a small village north of Montreal, Clarence Gagnon is best known for his paintings of sun-drenched winter landscapes and for the colorful illustrations for Louis Hémon's novel, Maria Chapdelaine.

Clarence Gagnon: An Introduction to His Life and Art is a richly illustrated, insightful look at a complex individual.

Despite living in France for much of his adult life, Gagnon's love for his native Quebec is evident in his art. His simple, realistic style of painting captures the old traditions and peaceful rural splendor of Quebec's Laurentian Mountains and Charlevoix region at the end of the 19th century.

The book traces Gagnon's early life and influences, examining his career as an illustrator and his development as an artist. Included here are excerpts from Gagnon's personal letters, which reveal his astute observations of life, art and politics.

Liberally illustrated with Gagnon's sublimely executed paintings -- many never before published together in one volume -- Clarence Gagnon is a superb tribute to an international artist who always remained passionate about his simple origins.


Anne Newlands worked for twenty-seven years as an educator and researcher-writer at the National Gallery of Canada. She is the author of numerous books including Canadian Paintings, Prints and Drawings, Canadian Art: From Its Beginnings to 2000, Clarence Gagnon: An Introduction to His Life and Art, Emily Carr: An Introduction to Her Life and Art, and The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson: An Introduction. She is currently writing a book about the Quebec textile artist Mariette Rousseau-Vermette (1926-2006).



In the 125 years since Clarence Gagnon was born in a little village north of Montreal, the appeal of his peaceful paintings of rural Quebec has endured, conjuring affection for the old traditions and visual splendour of the Laurentians and the Charlevoix region of eastern Quebec. Best known for his images of sun-filled winter landscapes and the colourful illustrations for Louis Hémon's novel, Maria Chapdelaine, Gagnon was also an award-winning printmaker, whose fascination with technical perfection and craftsmanship inspired experiments in printmaking and led him later to mix his own paints. A complex and multi-talented individual, Gagnon's varied interests, skills and passions frequently competed with the time for his art. As a passionate outdoorsman and a bon vivant, he filled his photo albums with images of fishing, skiing, hiking and sailing that all reflected his intense enthusiasm for nature. Despite the many years of living abroad, his love of the picturesque villages and dramatic landscapes of the Charlevoix region fostered his interest in the domestic arts of the habitants. These people were descendants of French peasant farmers, and their geographical isolation perpetuated their adherence to traditions largely untouched by industrialization. Gagnon's friendship with them led to his active promotion of Quebec handicrafts, along with his contribution of designs and colour schemes to improve the quality of local products. "All art is fine art," he wrote, "and no art worthy of the name can lose caste by assisting the other arts."

His involvement in the 1920s with Eric Brown, Director of the National Gallery of Canada, and his association with some of the Group of Seven artists, enhanced his pride in his French-Canadian identity and reinforced the contributions of fellow Quebec artists to the story of Canadian art. Gagnon's astute observations of the life, art and politics that surrounded him are recorded in his abundant correspondence, giving us insights -- in both English and French -- into his personality and preparing us for the burst of eloquent speeches delivered later in life. Characterized by his friend the poet Duncan Campbell Scott as "an intense and untiring craftsman in whatever he undertook," Gagnon's concentrated "thoroughness" was balanced, as many others have also noted, by a spirit of optimism that similarly illuminated his art.



The Formative Years

  • Early Mentors: Brymner and Walker
  • Charlevoix

Paris, 1904-1914

  • Painting
  • Printmaking
  • A Visit to Canada
  • Return to France
  • The Reitlinger Exhibition

Baie-Saint-Paul, 1914-1924

  • Paris, 1917-1919
  • Return to Baie-Saint-Paul, 1919-1924
  • The Craft of Art
  • The Art of Craft

Return to Paris, 1924-1936

  • Book Illustration
  • Vagabonding through Europe: 1926-1936

Return to Canada, 1936

  • From the Brush to the Pen

Gagnon's Legacy
Selected Sources and Further Reading

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