René Richard Masterpiece Underscores Pan-Canadian Importance
René Richard, R.C.A. (1895-1982) Trapper and Trail Companions, Oil on masonite, 30" x 32 1/2" Provenance: Continental Galleries, Montreal Private Collection, Montreal
I have known this René Richard painting my entire professional life and believe this to be my absolute favorite composition by him, a work poetically but maybe not elegantly descriptive of the harsh conditions Richard lived as a Canadian trapper in north western Canada in the 1920s and ‘30s.
During René Richard’s trapping days he drew notes of his experience on paper, references he used after he settled in Baie St Paul, Quebec in 1940, recreating those earlier days in oil paint. Richard's lifestyle as woodsman was first stimulated at age 16 when, living with his family in Cold Lake Alberta where his father had opened a trading post or general store, he went out exploring with another adolescent he referred to as “Dick”. From then-on he embarked on a life of woodsman and trapper, a career that took him on expeditions to Northeastern Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba and on to James Bay.
Interviewed by C. Jasmin for Montreal’s La Presse and published on January 26 1963 Richard was quoted as saying; ''I will never forget this wild country, of nothern Alberta. I frequented this country, my God. Townbee, the west coast, up until Yukon, the Belle river, the Porc-épic sent down just to Port Yukon. It was quite a trail! At Dawson we came through the Pacific because the Mackenzie was covered in ice! What was there to paint? The forest, at 78 degrees, there were still some nice pine trees. Certainly in the areas that were covered in sun, the rest in desert…already I loved high mountains...''
Encouraged by Clarence Gagnon to pursue his draughtsmanship by studying drawing in Paris Rene Richard spent 3 years in Europe from 1927. It was during Richard’s expeditions prior to and after his three years of art studies in Europe that Richard drew sketches of the experiences of the Canadian trapper/woodsman, of abandoned camps, the woodman’s canoe, the burning campfire, the trapper's sled dogs, and the occasional glimpses of the camaraderie of a meeting of another trapper.
Of his return to Canada and the opportunities to both guide and paint, Richard said: “I was happy to return. I was once again a woodsman. I had my own canoe. It was complicated particularly the material. Winnipeg was a more familiar area where I could stock up on paint brushes, colors and the rest. I had a friend who soon became postman of the Mackenzie. He would look for mining concessions. He asked me to help. For my salary he would get me art supplies in a town called Flin Flon, far North. He held his word and came with supplies filling the entire canoe!'' (La Presse Montreal Jan 26 1963 interview with C. Jasmin.)
René Richard is indeed an important Canadian artist of his generation and the painting we are offering is one of his master works.
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