C'est en procédant à l'inventaire des vitraux ornant les différentes églises de la ville de Québec qu'un type particulier de verrière a attiré notre attention: les "memorial windows". Localisés surtout dans les églises protestantes, ces vitraux historiés comportent une épitaphe et souvent aussi un texte tiré de la Bible. Sortis d'ateliers différents, ils couvrent une période d'environ cent ans et témoignent de l'évolution du médium aux XIXième et XXième siècles. Mais au-delà d'un rendu plastique par ailleurs fort intéressant, ces fenêtres "commémorent", en ce sens qu'elles rappellent à l'intérieur d'un lieu de culte le souvenir d'un défunt. Comme tel, le mémorial prend diverses significations que nous avons voulu clarifier tout en tenant compte du fait que cette catégorie de vitrail n'a pas été analysée ni dans les études sur la mort, ni dans celles sur le vitrail. C'est pourquoi avant d'entreprendre la lecture puis l'examen des textes et des motifs qui particularisent ces monuments de verre, il nous semble utile de considérer d'abord le contexte responsable de l'éclosion et de la popularité de la fenêtre commémorative.
The Memorial Windows
Une mémoire de verre
While preparing an inventory on some five hundred stained-glass windows from various churches in Québec City, I became particularly aware of the importance of memorial windows. They are exceptional in their unique and varied imagery as well as in the quality of their execution. The eighty memorial windows, located primarily in Protestant churches, are the works of fourteen of the twenty stained-glass workshops active in Québec and documented at the time of this inventory. The accomplishment of these English, Anglo-American, Canadian, and French studios demonstrates, in brief, the evolution of memorial windows between 1864 and 1957.
The art of mural painting was ignored by most Canadian artists in the nineteenth century, with the exception of a small number of Québec artists who created murals for church interiors. One painter who did try to promote murals in public buildings was the Toronto artist George Agnew Reid (1860–1947). Reid gathered together a group of artists who tried to encourage government officials and public institutions to provide them with commissions. Although the campaign achieved only limited success, a few examples of the group's work survive in private and public buildings. George Reid's first major murals were the panels he executed for the Toronto Municipal Buildings from 1897 to 1899, entitled Hail to the Pioneers.
Canadians have become accustomed to marking events of the recent history of the country in relation to the spectacularly successful Expo 67 in Montréal; it was a birthday that in many respects marked a coming of age for Canada, albeit a belated coming of age. The National Gallery of Canada marked the occasion with the exhibition A Pageant of Canada: The European Contribution to the Iconography of Canadian History. The colonial nature of the enterprise was underlined by both the membership of the Committee of Honour, which included the Ambassadors of France and Great Britain and eight Lords and Ladies, and the selection of Dr. Roy Strong, then Keeper of the National Portrait Gallery of Great Britain, as the exhibition organizer and author of the catalogue.
Thanks largely to the curatorial efforts of Jean-René Ostiguy (Ozias Leduc: peinture symboliste et religieuse, Ottawa, 1974) and Laurier Lacroix (Dessins inédits d'Ozias Leduc, Montréal, 1978), interest in the art of Ozias Leduc has enjoyed a much deserved revival within the last decade or so. In addition to these two exhibitions, several recent master's theses (Concordia University and the Universities of Montréal and Toronto) have been devoted to various aspects of the St. Hilaire artist's work. The circulating exhibition Les paysages d'Ozias Leduc, lieux de méditation, guest-curated by Louise Beaudry for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in fact grew out of Beaudry's own master's thesis on four of Leduc's landscapes.
Since the emergence of the women's movement in the seventies there has been an abundance of feminist literature, and the field of art history has not remained untouched by its ideologies. In Canada this new consciousness has been reflected in a variety of exhibitions and publications. Mary B. Alexander's monograph Sybil Jacobson—Painting in the West, 1984, is one such work.
A painting by the artist in the possession of Alexander's family may well have instigated the author's investigation of Sybil Jacobson (1881–1953). Overcoming the many difficulties of initial research (much of the material was either inaccurate or lacking), Alexander presents the story of Jacobson's life and her determination to gain acceptance and recognition in the art world.
The fact that this exhibition catalogue is the first monograph on Montréal painter Prudence Heward (1896–1947) is sufficient to make it an important work. It is also, however, a solid and competent product by Carleton University instructor Natalie Luckyj, and lays the necessary groundwork for future, more in-depth publications. Two shortcomings do mar this book's general success: a structural problem in the catalogue text and a lack of interpretive writing on the paintings.
Probably the kindest thing I can say about this catalogue is that it is an impressive amassing of written and pictorial documents which will serve future writers well. How sad that Luckyj's additive, archaeological accumulations on Heward's life, critical reception, and work read as three boring, disembodied lists that manage to avoid anything approximating an integrated or contextualized presentation of a painter who, we gather, was very much a part of Montreal's avant-garde in the thirties. This artist's life and work raise pertinent questions about difference that Luckyj refuses to address. It is not enough to state and restate that Heward's work differed from that of the Group of Seven in subject matter in that she preferred nudes and portraits to landscape; rather, what matters is why. It is not enough to present lengthy formal analyses, nor to document changes in setting or paint application, without examining why these occur.