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GEORGES DELFOSSE, A.R.C.A. (1869-1939)

 
 
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  Biography  
   
 
Georges Delfosse, destined to leave a treasured inheritance to
Quebec, and especially Montreal, was born at Saint-Henri de
Mascouche, into a family of musicians.

At a young age, Delfosse learned music as did all members of his
family, but he quickly exchanged the piano for the palette and brush. In
1881, the Delfosse family left Mascouche to live in Montreal. There,
Georges first attended Saint-Jacques school, then Saint-Laurent
college. While still a school boy, he filled the margins of his notebooks
with pictures which delighted his classmates. At the age of 13, he
drew his own portrait. This evident talent encouraged his uncle, Dr.
Edmond Mount, to entrust the young prodigy to Father Chabert, founder
of Montreal's Institut National des Beaux-Arts, who introduced such
talents as Suzor-Côté, Franchère, Henri Julien and Joseph Saint-
Charles to painting.

In 1885, Georges Delfosse began his string of commissions with a
pencil portrait which was exhibited a few years later, in 1888, at the
Philip's Square art gallery. While pursuing his studies with such
professors as Dyonnet and later, in Paris, Bonnat and Harlamoff, our
painter became enamoured of city planning. He traced maps of a
boulevard which would link Saint-Denis street to Saint-Laurent
boulevard. During this period he also tried illustration. He is
responsible for the attractive designs for "contes vrais" by
Lemay, "Femmes rêvées" by Ferland and "Florence" by Rodolphe
Gérard.

In 1890 Georges Delfosse embarked on his impressive career as a
religious painter. Indefatigable, he most probably painted all the saints
of the calendar, angels of heaven and martyrs; the churches of
Quebec, Canada and even the United States still testify to this prolific
outpouring. Certain works enjoyed particular success, such as the
series of seven tableaux partially produced during his prolonged stay in
Paris in 1908, which now decorate the lower side of Montreal's
cathedral. While on a second trip to Paris, cut short by the war of
1914, he often visited museums, salons and artists, later taking in the
old cities and churches to enrich his palette and develop a sharper
sense of colour.

At the 1893 provincial exhibition, then held on Mont-Royal avenue,
between Esplanade street and Park avenue, three Delfosse works
were awarded prizes: "Eglise Bonsecours", "Fort Chambly", and a
portrait of "Docteur Mount". This last picture may have been the
catalyst for his portraits commissioned by the province's notables. Or
was this due to his portrait of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada's prime
minister? The latter was exhibited at the Canadian Arts Society in 1897
and was admired by 50,000 visitors for its captivating resemblance to
Laurier.

As a portraitist, Georges Delfosse rapidly achieved renown; moreover,
he founded the Canadian Society of Portraits and Oil Paintings in 1900.
He continued to paint portraits until 1937, two years prior to his death.
He painted nearly 3,000 pictures, many of which had been
commissioned.

Even if his portraits and religious paintings kindled the admiration of his
countrymen, it was assuredly in historical painting that his talent was
most clearly exhibited.

These historic paintings are numerous enough to form the third facet of
his life work. They represent sites of houses or buildings in an older
Montreal. Much of this heritage has disappeared and it is as if the
painter foresaw, with his easel and brushes, the demolition and fires
which would destroy these buildings. Delfosse saved their old stones,
with their patina of the ages, and committed them to canvas for future
generations.

Expanding on his work, Delfosse, the landscape painter, did not
confine himself to houses. He travelled throughout the province, the
Laurentians, Ile d'Orléans and the region surrounding Montreal.
Numerous sketches testify to this. Certain pastels are seductive in
their finesse and freshness. To quote several art historians, we can
affirm that "Georges Delfosse was our painter of light".
 
   
 
 
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