Lot # 162
Spring 2013 - 2nd Session Live auction

Marc-Aurèle Fortin
ARCA 1888 - 1970 Canadian

Vue de St-Siméon
oil on board circa 1945
signed and on verso signed, titled, inscribed "C-1483 / B-53171 and 33-53309" and stamped OP2064001
39 x 48 in  99 x 121.9cm

Provenance:
The Bonneville Collection, Quebec
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Montreal
Galerie Bernard Desroches, Montreal
Kenneth G. Heffel Fine Art Inc., Vancouver, inventory #614-6 B678
Private Collection, Toronto

Literature:
Ottawa Citizen, June 7, 1964, reproduced page 14
Maurice Huot, Le Droit, April 25, 1964, reproduced page 3
Jean-René Ostiguy, Fortin, National Gallery of Canada, 1964, reproduced frontispiece and listed, unpaginated
Jean-Pierre Bonneville, M.A. Fortin, Verdun Cultural Centre, 1968, listed page 15 and reproduced page 16
Hughes de Jouvancourt, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, 1980, reproduced page 161
Guy Robert, Fortin, 1982, reproduced page 189
A.K. Prakash, Canadian Art: Selected Masters from Private Collections, 2003, reproduced page 173
Marc-Aurèle Fortin, The Experience of Colour / Marc-Aurèle Fortin, L’expérience de la couleur, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2011, reproduced page 182 and listed page 256

Exhibited:
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1954
Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, 1958
National Gallery of Canada, Fortin, 1964, traveling to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Musée du Québec, the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina and the Willistead Art Gallery, Windsor, catalogue #62
Centre Cultural de Verdun, M.A. Fortin, 1968, catalogue #15
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Montreal, Fortin Exposition Retrospective, 2006, catalogue #46
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, The Experience of Colour / Marc-Aurèle Fortin, L’expérience de la couleur, 2011, traveling to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, catalogue #101

Saint-Siméon is a small village on the St. Lawrence River in the Charlevoix region, some 175 kilometres from Quebec City. Marc-Aurèle Fortin’s painting showing the village in the foreground, in front of the spectacular series of capes ending in the river, is a classic view of the site. Fortin was committed to the idea of producing an image of Quebec that had nothing to do with Europe, and in that he shared the thoughts of the American regionalists (Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry and Grant Wood) and even of the Group of Seven, who were similarly inclined. But he was also convinced that neither the bustling US economic growth nor the wild Canada cherished by the Group could be used to accurately represent the situation in Quebec. For 300 years, French settlers had established churches and villages in Quebec, pushed back the wild border of the forest and established a rural countryside similar to the one the first colonists had left in France. The average look of the landscape did not have much to do with the Group’s depiction of Algoma in Northern Ontario or the Rockies in the West. Fortin thought, along with traditionalist thinkers like Roman Catholic priest and historian Chanoine Lionel Groulx, that Quebec remained unique because of the language barriers and the attachment to the Catholic faith, both of which allowed it to avoid the secularisation of its way of life. In this, Fortin was in accord with a part of Quebec’s elite – in particular the clergy. Some critics (like Jean Chauvin, Maurice Gagnon and Paul Gladu, to name but a few) who admired Fortin’s painting but did not share his traditionalist views, tried to annex him to the “modern art” movement - the so-called “art vivant” trend. However, he objected vehemently to it because of his attachment to the great masters of the past (he quoted Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens and Nicolas Poussin in his work), and he kept his vision of a rural Quebec – immutable, far from the city and its global economy. His trip to the north shore of the St. Lawrence River immersed him more deeply in this persuasion, already defined in his paintings of large trees done on the outskirts of Montreal.
If we forget about this particular ideological context, it is true that Fortin’s painting is a pure delight of colour, line and movement. We can see in his Vue de St-Siméon an almost unbroken continuity between the houses seen in the foreground and the square patches on the hills. The vertical church spire is really the pivotal element of the entire composition, and the unruly allure of the fences in the foreground is a part of a gyrating movement that incorporates the village into the landscape. Movement also occurs in the blue rocks of the cape plunging into the river, in the winding road climbing the hills and in the pale clouds drifting in a yellow sky. Fortin also had complete control of colour and of mood in the painting. We are obviously at the end of the day, as the blue shadows are deepening, and the river seems almost as quiet as a lake. In Fortin’s work is the clear demonstration that one can never reduce a good painter to his political or religious ideas. The ideas are important not just for themselves, but for what he is able to do with them.
Since his untimely death more than 40 years ago, the “modern movement” has strongly claimed Fortin as one of its own. His annexation to the movement was settled once and for all at the great retrospective, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, The Experience of Colour, shown at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in 2011. This painting was one of the gems of that show and is reproduced in the substantial catalogue, which was produced in both French and English for the occasion.
We thank François-Marc Gagnon of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute of Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, for contributing the above essay.
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist's work, #H-0518.

Estimate: $400,000 ~ $600,000 CAD  
Sold for: $672,750 CAD (including Buyer's Premium)

All prices are in Canadian Dollars.

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