Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d'histoire de l'art canadien

Archive of past issues

Vol. I:1 (1974)

Articles

Pierre-Noël Levasseur

A Letter

Doreen E. Walker

Amongst the vast holdings of the Archives Nationales du Québec, District de Montréal, is a simple document of timeless appeal: a letter from Pierre-Noël Levasseur, prominent member of a leading woodcarving family of eighteenth century Quebec, to François Filiau Dubois, of Montreal. The letter, which was first published by E.-Z. Massicotte in 1931, is dated July 15, 1745, and concerns the apprenticeship of Levasseur's son, René-Michel, to the Montreal sculptor, Dubois.

A rare human document, Levasseur's letter reveals most clearly and poignantly the strained relationship which existed at the time between father and son. In addition, it gives evidence of certain aspects of the apprenticeship system as it was practiced in Quebec. One may assume that it was not uncommon for a young member of a woodcarving family to be apprenticed to a master in another studio or workshop; and one may also discern that the relationship of master to apprentice was an extremely personal one. Although Pierre-Noël was deeply resentful of his son's leave-taking, he movingly requested (and seemingly expected) of Dubois, to watch over the conduct of René-Michel like a father: "as though he belonged to you".

To those who have been familiar with this letter, its engaging quality as a personal and social document has undoubtedly been recognized. Interest in it, however, must surely increase with the recent findings of Jean Trudel, and the subsequent release of hitherto unpublished material concerning the career of Pierre-Noël Levasseur.

The 1935 Canadian Silver Dollar

Leslie L. Forsyth

In Canadian numismatic history, the 1935 silver dollar design is the watershed between colonial and Canadian imagery. The unprecedented inclusion of a dominant Canadian theme was, however, neither sudden nor unexpected in light of the Canadian temper of the 30's — a period of increasing national realization. The year 1935 marked the silver jubilee of George V's reign, and the Canadian silver dollar commemorates that event. The design for the reverse of the coin was executed by Emmanuel Hahn, the Toronto sculptor. Because of the popularity of the Hahn design, it continues to appear on the silver dollar. Until the issue of this coin, Canadian coins bore only the traditional features: the bust of the monarch, a descriptive inscription in Latin GEORGIVS V DEI GRATIA REX ETIND: IMP, the name of the country, a wreath of leaves, the date and of course, the value of the token. Such iconography reflected the Imperial colonial ties of the Canadian nation; coins from other British colonies followed the same pattern.

A Visit to Martiques Summer 1908

Impressions by William Brymner

Janet Braide

William Brymner, Edwardian master of the School of the Art Association of Montreal, is referred to by his chroniclers as a dedicated teacher. It was undoubtedly one of his greatest pleasures to get away from the school to paint and one of his chief regrets when he had to return. In summer holidays he lived in the neighbourhood of Montreal, or travelled to the far reaches of the St. Lawrence River Valley, to the east and west coasts of Canada, to the British Isles or to favourite haunts in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. In 1908 he chose Martiques, a fishing village in the south of France. His impressions of this visit are recorded in manuscript papers held in a private collection. They are an excellent example of the truth about William Brymner: that he was as clever at creating literary impressions of his experiences as he was at creating images in paint and watercolour.

Keenly observant, he had a sardonic wit and considerable ability as a raconteur. His edited perceptions of that summer of 1908 follow, together with some comments about the work which resulted from his visit.