Jusqu'à tout récemment, on croyait qu'avant le dernier tiers du XIXe siècle, la I décoration intérieure des églises québécoises avait peu favorisé le déploiement de grands ensembles statuaires monumentaux et décoratifs. Dans le même ordre d'idées, on pensait que de tels ensembles de statues n'avaient pris leur essor et ne s'étaient multipliés que vers 1860, avec l'avènement des styles dits revival dans le décor des édifices. Or, on connaît maintenant un nombre assez important d'ensembles de plus de trois statues et de grand format, tous concentrés dans la grande région de Québec et datant de 1775 à 1825. Certains étaient étroitement liés à d'importants chantiers de construction ou de rénovation d'églises, alors que d'autres étaient complètement indépendants de l'architecture de celles-ci.
A Newly Discovered Work by François Baillairgé (1759–1830)
The statuary ensemble of Saint-Joseph de Deschambault
Saint-Joseph de Deschambault Church contains a remarkable ensemble of six full-scale sculptures created at the beginning of the 1820s by an artist who significant, is no other than François Baillairgé (1759–1830). At present, a rather important of full-size statue ensembles are known to exist, all concentrated in the region of Quebec City and dating between 1775 and 1825. The six statues from Deschambault Church, however, prove to be the most important known statuary ensembles prior to 1875. In the past, only the art historian, Gérard Morisset, had taken any interest in these works.
Sources and Documents
Over the past fifty years there have been several biographies of Arthur Lismer as well as a number of biographical essays in exhibition catalogues, newspapers and other publications. Very little space, however, has been accorded to the first twenty-five years of Lismer's life in Sheffield, England. For example, John McLeish allots only eleven pages of his 204-page biography September Gale to Lismer's time in Sheffield and Lois Darroch, in Bright Land: A Warm Look at Arthur Lismer, only eight columns in 164 pages. In Arthur Lismer: Paintings 1916–1919, Gemey Kelly covers Lismer's Sheffield years in one and a half columns, citing McLeish and Marjorie Lismer Bridges for personal information on the artist. Michael Tooby, in his catalogue Our Home and Native Land: Sheffield's Canadian Artists, provides more details on Lismer's membership in the Heeley Art Club and describes to a limited extent, life in Sheffield in the early twentieth century. Bridges quotes her father's unpublished autobiography in A Border of Beauty: Arthur Lismer's Pen and Pencil, where Lismer himself only devotes five paragraphs of thirteen pages to his time in Sheffield.
Christiane Pflug has been a touchstone for many Canadian artists. Her role and position in our imagination could perhaps be paralleled with that of Frida Kahlo to the south, although Pflug's work is imbued with a Northern melancholy and longing, rather than Latin intensity and a flaming palette. Archetypally female, Pflug's meticulous, detailed and haunting paintings and drawings have held a long-time intrigue and fascination for those of us familiar with her work. This publication, intended, I think, as a critical biography, was thus greeted with some excitement and anticipation. This reaction intensified when the book was not published in 1991, but delayed until 1994 due to wranglings with the artist's widower, Michael Pflug. It is highly disappointing, therefore, that while the book contains reams of factual material about the life of Christiane Pflug, it has a paucity of interpretation and evaluation—the critical component so necessary in such a project.
When the eminent art historian Sir Joseph Burke visited Canada in 1974 he told me about the rigorous self-discipline required for his volume in the Oxford History of English Art series. The author of such a work of reference, he said, must adopt a conscious plan of attack, select primary sources with discretion, pick photographs carefully, articulate a clear methodological approach and above all, stick fast to these precepts from beginning to end. These challenges have been met and overcome by Harold D. Kalman in his A History of Canadian Architecture. Considering the scope and length of the two well-illustrated volumes, this was no mean feat. In addition to the sheer scale of the production, its preparation stretched out over more than a decade. Despite the length of time, a succession of research assistants and the uncertainties of grant funding, Kalman never lost his focus. If anything it became more acute as he progressed towards the end of Volume Two and his chronological cut-off point of 1992.