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Chronological details of the work of Marc-Aurèle Fortin
1888 - 1970

«I have wanted to create a school of Canadian Landscape that would be totally independent from the European School. There is not a typical Canadian School where the European influence is not being felt. I was the firs to break away from this trend.»

 

For fifty years, Fortin pursued this objective in total isolation, but always with passionate enthusiasm and joy. The phenomenal artwork that he produced consists of landscapes bursting with luminosity, intensely capturing the spirit of Quebec on canvass.

After a short stay in Edmonton in 1907, the artist pursued his penchant for art at the Chicago Art Institute.

Upon his return to his natal village of Sainte-Rose in 1912, he strived to redefine his style by searching for an original interpretation of Quebec’s landscapes. 

Over the next six years, a new style emerged: the results were dazzling transformations of landscapes.

Starting in 1918, his watercolours are best described as visual poetry. This period is punctuated by his interspaced trees reminiscent of a sponge and made with flamboyant colors. But it is his village elm trees that seemed to exert a strange fascination over him.

From 1923 to 1928, he painted the foliage and branches of trees in great detail: disproportionately gigantic elms bursting with sap, looming over humble country houses.

The year 1928 produced a series of truly splendid watercolours, of which their exceptional quality can only be found amongst great masters. 

After a six-month visit to France in 1935, he declared that the future of painting belonged to America.  Nevertheless, his style had transformed and subsequently proved himself as an adept colourist.

In 1936, Fortin revealed to the world his innovative talent by developing a technique of painting over a gray background to “describe the warm atmosphere of Quebec’s sky”; and on black backgrounds to “intensify the relationship between light and shade”.

The year 1939 witnessed the creation of watercolours punctuated with pencil and oil pastels: skies lightly sketched in pencil with subtly tinted watercolour clouds.  He also began experimenting with engraving around this period.

In 1950, the artist discovered casein - an emulsion that uses milk protein as a basic element.  He had now reached the height of his talent and up to 1955; he unrelentingly produced paintings of astonishing vitality, until his diabetes rendered him virtually incapable of pursuing his passion.

He entrusted more than two thousand priceless works of art to his manager.  Unfortunately hundreds would end up in the dump yard.  Fortin tried picking up where he left off in 1960, but he had lost his touch, he was no longer the great master he once was.

He lost his sight in 1966 and after 12 years of being sequestered and forced to live in deplorable conditions by his caretaker, his friend and admirer, René Buisson, had him brought to the Macamic Sanatorium in Abitibi where he passed away in 1970.

"Marc-Aurèle Fortin is known and admired as the great champion of the Quebec landscape. He has seen and portrayed its many facets from rocky uprisings in the Laurentian to notches in the Saguenay through the valleys of Charlevoix.

From countryside to city, he painted the peaceful roads of St. Rose, his birthplace, the mountains of Piedmont and the fishermen boats in the Gaspé. He witnessed the strong progress of urbanisation: a network of railways in the district of Hochelaga, construction of the Jacques-Cartier bridge and the maritime port of Montreal.

If we are pleased to discover, with nostalgia, in his pastels, watercolours and oils, the changing faces of the Quebec of the first half of the twentieth century, it is not at this level of description of places and their charms that we need to look to find the genius of Marc-Aurèle Fortin.

Painter and creator above all, Fortin although overwhelmed by the picturesque scenery which he describes, is more importantly not bonded to the simple transcript of their appearance. He transposes, processes and creates a metamorphosis of perceptions from his eye into his vision.

Fortin experiments with the most varied techniques, developing a pictorial language to translate more expressive emotions, feelings. The arabesques of the line, the contrasts and harmonies of colour, movement of the composition, this is what captivates the painter and spurs his research to distinguish his work from the clichés of the small landscape artists."

Germain Lefebvre .... Marc-Aurèle Fortin. Painter and engraver ... 1888-1970

 

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