Clarence Alphonse Gagnon
Canadian artist , R.C.A , Art Association of Montreal
Canadian artist Clarence Gagnon was born in Montreal on November 8, 1881 to a French-speaking Canadian father and a mother born in England. The Gagnon family moved to Sainte-Rose in 1883, where Clarence's father, a flour merchant, bought several lots and sold them to wealthy English-speaking families in Montreal. The Gagnon family moved to Montreal again in 1892. The young Clarence Gagnon returned to Sainte-Rose for the holidays. He is immersed in the artistic and intellectual milieu of Sainte-Rose, where the Hébert family (father and son), Jean Chauvin, who will become an art critic, and Henri Julien, a renowned painter and caricaturist, coexist. With the family Fortin thereafter, Sainte-Rose, according to Jean Chauvin becomes, at the turn of the century, an artistic colony.
The first courses of Clarence Gagnon are at the Plateau Academy which prepares students for the trade. Although the nature of this school is not intended, Gagnon receives from the first to the eighth year of the first drawing classes given by Ludger Larose. The young Clarence Gagnon then follows in the footsteps of his brother with evening classes at the Council of Arts and Manufactures. Edmond Dyonnet gave the young Gagnon a freehand drawing class at the Monument National who was then trying to give courses oriented towards French academism.
In 1899, he attended classes at the Art Association of Montreal alongside Alexander Young Jackson under the teachings of William Brymner who will have a decisive influence on the direction of his career. Landscaping art at the beginning of the century has a great deal of reasoning among Canadian painters who leave Canada to follow in the footsteps of Dutch painters, among them Brymner, Morrice and even Jackson. The engouemanet for this painting is important and it is in this context that Clarence Gagnon meets the painter Horatio Walker who gives him valuable advice on landscape painting in his studio on the island of Orleans. Clarence Gagnon returns with small rural landscapes of the Côte de Beaupré and Ile. On his return to town, he gets a contract with the merchant Morgan, which will allow him to leave for Europe.
In 1904, he enrolled at the Julian Academy in Paris and studied under the teachings of Jean-Paul Laurens. He travels to Spain and Morocco with his friend Edward Boyd. Back in Paris, Clarence Gagnon draws inspiration and learns from painter James Morrice. In 1905, Gagnon moved to his first studio boulevard de Montparnasse. He married in 1907, and later moved to the workshops offered by the French government on Falguière Street. He continues his training of payasge in the regions of Normandy and Brittany. During his stay in Europe, he distinguished himself and first made known by the quality of his engravings.
In 1909, he returned to Quebec and stayed at Baie Saint-Paul. It is in this small village that he finds his main source of inspiration. From that moment, Clarence Gagnon alternates between Europe and Quebec. As early as 1910, the painter proposed Canadian winter landscapes at the Paris salons and in Liverpool, England. During the months of 1912, Clarence Gagnon returned to Baie St-Paul and traveled through the landscapes of Charlevoix cross-country skiing to capture the most winter views for his exhibition of Canadian paintings at Reitlinger a large gallery in Paris. This exhibition was a great first for a Canadian artist to exhibit exclusively winter landscapes in France.
Ile returned to Baie-Saint-Paul in 1914 and stayed there for three years, fleeing the First World War in Europe. During these years, Clarence Gagnon went with Judge Simard on the North Shore in a schooner. He returned briefly to Paris between 1917-1919
Back in Baie-Saint Paul, he encourages crafts in the Charlevoix region by designing models that will be used to make carpets. Clarence Gagnon will be a great promoter of Canadian art in his lifetime.
The success he will experience in his lifetime will allow him to have a great influence in the world of the arts and he will use it on many occasions to help artists like Arthur Lismer, as well as Ann Savage. He supports and launches René Richard's career.
From 1924 to 1936, he was in Paris again, devoting almost all his time to producing illustrations of fiction works "Maria Chapdelaine" and "The Great White Silence" published in Paris by Maison Mornay. It will produce more than 54 gouaches of exceptional quality.
He died January 6, 1942 in Montreal.
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