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Clarence A. Gagnon, R.C.A. (1881-1942)
Detail of an illustration for Maria Chapdelaine, 1933
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Galerie Alan Klinkhoff - Clarence A. Gagnon, R.C.A. (1881-1942)
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Galerie Alan Klinkhoff - Clarence A. Gagnon, R.C.A. (1881-1942) Galerie Alan Klinkhoff - Clarence A. Gagnon, R.C.A. (1881-1942) Galerie Alan Klinkhoff - Clarence A. Gagnon, R.C.A. (1881-1942)
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CLARENCE A. GAGNON, R.C.A. (1881-1942)
Detail of an illustration for Maria Chapdelaine, 1933
Mixed media 7" x 3"
Lucille Rodier Gagnon, certificate 875.
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal;
Private collection, Montreal.
  More about this painting  
“Clarence Gagnon is best known for his rural Quebec landscape paintings and the illustrations for Louise Hémon’s novel `Maria Chapdelaine`.”
(National Gallery of Canada

Towards the end of the novel `Maria Chapdelaine`, Maria’s mother, Alma-Rose, is bedridden and dies unexpectedly. This unforeseen loss prompts friends and relatives to speak of her heroic qualities; strong, capable and warm. Gagnon’s illustration on page 198 encapsulates the mood of the setting following the death of Maria’s mother. The man in the picture is Samuel Chapdelaine, Maria’s father and a pioneer who is depicted as a nomad, particularly fond of the north country and wilderness but never quite satisfied with the land after it has been won.

Samuel Chapdelaine is stricken with grief by his wife’s sudden death and feels guilty for the stress he caused by moving the family to so many locations in the north country. In the picture on page 198, Samuel looks sad and sleepy and is described in the book as “almost in a state of voluntary death as if following the disappeared…” However, the arrival of Spring rain heralded relief and this particular event also determined Maria’s fate as she decided to pursue her relationship with one of her suitors, Eutrope Gagnon, the boy next door, who shares similar values with Maria’s family. Her decisions thereby ensures the survival of traditional values of her rural French Canada and those of her family.

This picture portrays heartache but more importantly, it evokes an image of hope for future generations.
Clarence Gagnon Biography
Painter, draughtsman, engraver, and illustrator, Clarence Alphonse Gagnon was born in Montreal November 8, 1881. From 1897 to 1900, he studied drawing and painting under William Brymner at the Art Association of Montreal. In 1904, Clarence Gagnon left for Paris to work in the studio of Jean-Paul Laurens at the Julian Academy. He 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 at the Salon des artistes français in Paris in 1905. From 1909 to 1914 Gagnon moved between Canada, France, and Norway, always working up the sketches he had made in Quebec.

Clarence Gagnon became a member of the Royal Society of Canada and in 1910, he became an associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and a full member in 1922. In 1923, he received the Trevor Prize of the Salmagundi Club of New York. Between 1924 and 1936, Gagnon spent time in Paris and traveled throughout Europe. It was during this period that he illustrated a number of books, including Rouquette’s Le grand silence blanc (1929) and the deluxe edition of Louis Hémon’s Maria Chapdelaine (1933), a story that celebrated Canadian frontier life. Upon his return to Quebec in 1936, the Université de Montréal awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Clarence Gagnon died in Montreal January 5, 1942. He was sixty-one years old.
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