Image © Copyright Succession Jean Dallaire / SODRAC (2015)
Oil on card, 1956
21.6 x 22. cm, 8.5 x 9 in.
Provenance: Private collection, Ottawa.
Born in Hull, Quebec, Jean Dallaire studied art under François Clapin at Hull Technical School (1932-34); with Charles Goldhamer, Peter Haworth, Robert Ross and Elizabeth Wyn Wood at the Central Technical School, Tor. (1935); studied old masters in Boston (1936). He painted religious murals for the Dominican Fathers near Ottawa and in Fall River, Massachusetts and during this period he did large figure studies on the walls of Madam Burger’s restaurant, later destroyed by fire (Burger’s first famous eating house). He continued his studies with Charles Maillard and Félix Charpentier at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Mtl. (1938); w/Maurice Denis and Georges Desvallières at Ateliers d’Art Sacré, Paris (1938); at Académie André Lhote, Paris (1938-39). When the Nazi army entered Paris, Dallaire was placed in an internment camp as was his wife. He continued to paint during his confinement at St. Denis outside Paris, but his wife was released after six months. While interned he came to know Canadian student Frank Pickersgill who escaped from the camp but later died in another camp. Following the war he returned to Quebec City where he taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (1945-52). He spent one summer with Jean Lurçat at Aubusson, France (1949). He was employed as a draughtsman and worked on film strips for the NFB in Ottawa (1952-56) and in Mtl. (1956-58). As a designer of film strips, Dallaire illustrated a series of three productions of the folk song, Cadet Rouselle II which were used in schools. Away from his NFB work he had a studio in Ottawa where he created large canvases on themes of his special interest using painstaking methods to ensure durability in his work. He also filled commissions for tapestry designs. Writing on the artist, the late Donald W. Buchanan brought out that Dallaire’s art had been affected by years of internment, and by cubist analysis of form, the decorative possibilities and limitations of tapestry design in which he had specialized, and his sensitivities to the myths of French Canada against the realities of Canada today. Buchanan had further written, “. . . he is obtaining a firm monumentality of design in his canvases. The question is, will he continue to achieve this without losing that gay freedom of detail which has always been such an attraction in his smaller works . . . . In these great canvases, the mental intricacy of his approach is well demonstrated. For example, he takes what is often a favourite theme with him, an old-fashioned table or cupboard with bulbous legs, and on that theme he elaborates with studious ingenuity. He constructs an edifice made up of legs and antique wooden surfaces – a Baroque composition of tables within and upon tables – a veritable chateau of cupboards and tables. His technique of oil painting is painstaking. The forms are all brushed in with an undercoating of fairly neutral colours. After these have dried, often a week or more later, he paints over them the details of local colour and texture. He hopes his canvases will have the durability of the picture surfaces of the old masters without losing the contemporary impact of personal colour and texture and calculated distortion.” The NGC has a sampling of Jean Dallaire’s work from 1936 A Man from Hull (near 3/4 length portrait of a man in overcoat and cap) to his 1963 humorous portrait of a chicken, First Prize. There is a strong element of caricature in much of his work. He was able to work in a wide range of styles. He is represented, as well, in the AGO, Le Musée du Québec, Bezalel Museum, Jerusalem. The Musée du Québec has a fine example of one of his paintings made into a tapestry entitled Julie. Jean Dallaire’s solo shows include: Paris (1945); Cercle Universitaire de Montréal (1947); Dominion Gallery, Mtl. (1954); Robertson Galleries, Ott. (c. 1955); retrospective, arranged by André Marchand, curator of the Quebec Museum, opened at the Musée d’art contemporain, Mtl. (1968 travelling). He lived in Vence, France from 1959 until his death at the young age of 49. He was awarded a Province of Quebec prize for painting in 1938.
Canadian Art, Summer, 1955, Vol. XII, No. 4 “The Art of Jean Dallaire” by Donald W. Buchanan, P.143-147 Vie des Arts, No. 45, Hiver, 1967 “Dallaire 1916-1965” par Denys Morisset, P.33-39 Ibid, No. 51, été, 1968, “Montréal – Rétrospective Jean Dallaire, Musée d’art contemporain” par Guy Robert AGO, the Can. coll. by Helen Pepall Bradfield, McG.-Hill, 1970, P.96 L’Art au Québec depuis 1940 par Guy Robert, La Presse, 1973, P.83, 86, 87, 92, 115, 162 Artistes Plasticiens par André Comeau, Bellarmin, Mtl., 1983, P.69 Le Musée du Québec, 500 oeuvres choisies, Commicat. Sect., Ministère Affaires Cult., Que., 1983, P.205, 270, 349 A Concise History of Canadian Painting 2nd Ed. by Dennis Reid, Oxford, Tor., 1988, P.290 Catalogue, NGC, Can. Art, Vol. 1, A-F Eds. C.C. Hill/P.B. Landry, NGC/NMC, Ott., 1988, P.249-251
Colin S. MacDonald
A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada