"[Caron] worked in water colour using only distilled water and took great care with the selection of his materials to ensure permanency." Colin S. MacDonald, A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume One (1967)

Paul A. Caron was a highly accomplished newspaper illustrator of the early 20th century. The creative painting he did from the confines of his office has left a legacy of watercolours of significant urban interest of the period and are of outstanding quality.

 

Caron was one of the numerous artists whose formation began at the Art Association of Montreal under the tutelage of William Brymner and Maurice Cullen. His professional career was primarily as an illustrator for the Montreal newspapers La Presse and then The Montreal Star, the now defunct but long-lived English-language afternoon daily.

 

Caron's foremost creative accomplishments are his Montreal urban compositions, showing Montrealers of the day in an identifiable place. Two particularly interesting watercolours as optimum examples are Old Government Building, Shops Corner of St. Gabriel and Craig Street, Montreal and Skiers, Mount Royal, both circa 1920. It is also noteworthy that in these brilliant watercolours of the winter season, the artist uses the paper itself with an absence of medium to describe much of the content.

 

At the Art Association of Montreal's Annual Spring Exhibitions of 1931 and 1937, Caron twice won the Jessie Dow Prize for excellence in watercolour, among the most prestigious at the time. He exhibited with the important associations of his day including R.C.A., Canadian National Exhibition (C.N.E.), the Ontario Society of Artists (O.S.A.), the Art Association of Montreal (A.A.M.), was a member of Montreal's Pen and Pencil Club and was elected as an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts (R.C.A.) in 1939.

 

Although fashions change and the skyline Caron describes has since grown, Montrealers living downtown and who still enjoy cross-country skiing on the mountain can recognise the track he paints for his Skiers almost a century after he executed this skillful watercolour.

 

Old Government Building and Shops, Corner of St. Gabriel and Craig Streets is an especially fine vignette of Montreal in that era and of the area that we now refer to as Old Montreal, where Caron and his peer John Young Johnstone A.R.C.A. (1887-1930) found outstanding material for composition. The intersection shown here has since disappeared, smothered by the Montreal Courthouse which was built between 1965 and 1975 and occupies the square between Saint-Laurent, Notre-Dame, Saint-Gabriel and Craig (today's rue Saint-Antoine).

 

Craig Street was the main thoroughfare of Old Montreal and the suburban area known as Faubourg Saint-Antoine, later Saint-Antoine Ward, the area west of where now stands Victoria Square and what were the original boundaries of Montreal. In 1976, at a time when the Parti Québécois government and the municipality of Montreal renamed many streets after French figures and places, Craig Street was christened rue Saint-Antoine to bear the same name as its western portion

 

© Galerie Alan Klinkhoff

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