Artwork by Clarence Alphonse Gagnon,  The Doctor

Clarence Gagnon
The Doctor

drawing and gouache
signed, titled “Etude pour Maria Chapdelaine”, inscribed “page 170” and certified by Lucile Rodier Gagnon (no. 794) on a label on the reverse
7.25 x 8.75 ins ( 18.4 x 22.2 cms ) ( sight )

Sold for $8,260.00
Sale date: May 29th 2018

Provenance:
Masters Gallery, Calgary
Private Collection, Calgary
Exhibited:
“Restaurant Exhibition”, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1959
Literature:
Louis Hemon (Illustrations by Clarence Gagnon), Maria Chapdelaine, Paris, 1933, page 170 for the canvas of this subject
Ian M. Thom, Maria Chapdelaine: Illustrations, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, 1987, pages 24-28
Despite his vow to evade book illustration projects, in 1928 Clarence Gagnon was easily persuaded to take on the 1933 Mornay edition of “Maria Chapdelaine”. A romance novel published in 1914 by French writer Louis Hémon who was residing in Quebec at the time, “Maria Chapdelaine” was aimed at French and Quebec adolescents. The novel achieved great success, and has been extensively analyzed, adapted and translated throughout the decades. The story has caught the imagination of many artists, especially from Quebec, as well as commercial illustrators, all of whom were pleased to illustrate the landscape and traditional life of rural Quebec. Mornay Publications offered Gagnon the project and agreed to all of the artist’s strict demands on the book’s production.

Gagnon laboured over three years on these illustrations, devoting great care to each image. The preparatory drawing and gouache The Doctor serves as a study for the final illustration, which was entitled “The Diagnosis”, in the Mornay edition of the novel. The final image appears to be nearly identical to the “The Doctor”; Gagnon renders the same minute details of the interior in both versions. Ian Thom writes that “Gagnon avoids portraying individual faces, often showing figures from behind or rendering the features by a few simple lines. In effect, the text is left to speak for the characters.” This statement holds true in the case of this work, as the doctor’s face is the only one out of the four figures that is depicted in detail. Gagnon created forty-two images to accompany the “Maria Chapdelaine” story. On the detail, quality and influence of Gagnon’s illustrations, Thom declared “Greater in number, and in colour rather than black and white and of a different character, the illustrations set a new standard for book illustration.”

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Clarence Alphonse Gagnon
(1881 - 1942) RCA

Clarence Gagnon received his artistic training at the Art Association of Montreal under William Brymner from 1897-1900. In 1903, the generosity of art patron James Morgan allowed him to go to Paris and study in the studio of painter Jean-Paul Laurens. Gagnon distinguished himself early in his career by the quality of his engravings and won a gold medal at the St. Louis Exhibition in 1904 and an honourable mention the following year at the Salon des Artistes Francais in Paris. Returning to Canada in 1909, he divided his time between Montreal and Baie-St-Paul. He became a member of the Royal Society of Canada and later he was elected associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He felt compelled to return to France in 1917 and, while in Paris, continued to paint canvases based on his earlier sketches of Quebec villages. He returned to Canada to marry two years later, remaining until 1924. During this period, he sketched with A.Y. Jackson and Edwin Holgate at Baie Ste Paul. He received the Trevor Prize of the Salmagundi Club of New York. He illustrated “Le Grand Silence Blanc” (1929) and the deluxe edition of Louis Hemon's “Maria Chapdelaine” (1933). Upon his return from a second stay in France from 1922-36, the University de Montreal awarded him an honorary doctorate.