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 Armand Vaillancourt  (1929 - )

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada      Known for: abstract sculpture, painting, performance art, printmaking

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Armand Vaillancourt CQ (1929) (1)

A prominent Canadian sculptor, painter, performance artist and printmaker, Armand Vaillancourt was born in Black Lake, Quebec (about 100 miles east of Montreal) and has lived in Montreal for most of his life. Hundreds of his works are in Canadian Museums. His most famous monumental sculpture is Vaillancourt Fountain located at Justin Herman Plaza, on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

His most well-known mediums are burnt wood, welded steel, bronze, cast iron, and happenings*. He has also worked in aluminum, concrete (Justin Herman Plaza sculpture), marble (Lac des Castors fountain, Montreal), clay, granite, carved wood, found objects*, acrylic, pastel, watercolor, assemblage*, aquatint*, lithograph*, serigraph* and mixed mediums. Most of his work is abstract and thus the subjects are primarily line, shape, color and texture; but he is also a famous social activist and many of his works have an underlying or an expressed (with added text inscription or title) social commentary subject. His styles include Abstract Expressionism*, Conceptual Art*, Constructivism* and Kinetic Art*. The AskART images are good illustrations of his best known styles.

Quote: “An inventor of new techniques, he uses modern materials such as welded metal. He sees himself as a sculptor and social activist, committed to the battle to free Quebec's political prisoners. The symbolic figurative elements in some of his work stems from this conviction: a hand outstretched to the sky is a sign of despair, an expression of social injustice. The intensity of his symbolism lies in the interaction of the formal tensions of his works and is reinforced by their gigantic form. In wood or bronze, the play between his triangular, tubular or cubic geometric forms reflects strength and compression, mass and dynamism.” Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia (see AskART book references). (2)

Vaillancourt’s art education includes studies at the University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario (1949 – 1950) and the École des beaux-arts, Montréal (1951 – 1954). (3)

He was a founder of the Association des Arts Plastiques, Montreal (1955) and President of the Association of Quebec Sculptors (1973).

His works were included in the “3rd Biennial of Canadian Painting”, National Gallery of Canada (1959); ‘Spring Exhibition’, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1958 to 1964); “Salon de la Jeune Sculpture”, Musee Rodin, Paris (1962 and 1966); “Salon de Mai”, Museum of Modern Art, Paris (1962); “Toronto International Sculpture Symposium”, High Park, Toronto (1967); “Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1967); and “Visions of Quebec”, Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum, Charlottetown, P.E.I. (1996).

From its opening in 1965 to the present day (2013), the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art has included Vaillancourt’s works in over two dozen group exhibitions with titles such as: “Panorama of Sculpture in Quebec: 1945 – 1970” (1970), “The Art of Quebec” (1974), "Three Generations of Quebec Painting" (1976), “Trends in Quebec Sculpture 1960 – 1970” (1977), “The Lavalin Collection: Sharing a Vision” (1994), “Art and Society: Quebec 1960 to 1970” (1999), and “The Place of Magic, Quebec in the 40s, 50s and 60s” (2002 and 2006).

His works have also been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions at prominent commercial galleries such as Galerie Libre, Montreal; Galerie Denyse Delrue, Montreal; Galerie Camille Hebert, Montreal; Galerie Le Lieu, Quebec City; Galerie d'Art la Corniche, Chicoutimi; Here and Now Gallery, Toronto; and Dorothy Cameron Gallery, Toronto.

Vaillancourt’s works are in numerous private, corporate, and public collections. According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, his works are in the permanent collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario), Galerie Montcalm (Gatineau, Quebec), Joliette Art Museum (Quebec), Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (Quebec), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Musee Laurier (Victoriaville, Quebec), Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent (Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec), Museum London (Ontario), Ottawa Art Gallery (Ontario), Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).

In addition to Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco, the list of locations for Vaillancourt’s public space works includes Dorval Airport (now Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport), Montreal; Malton Airport (now Lester B. Pearson International Airport), Toronto; the School of Architecture, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg; Expo 67, Montreal; the Ministry of Education, Quebec City; Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Montreal; the Palace of Justice, Quebec City; and Plaza de la Cultura, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Included in his numerous awards and honors are three first prizes at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts spring exhibitions (1960, 1962 and 1963), two Canada Council* grants (1961 and 1969), the Canadian Centennial Medal (1967), the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas* (1993), and Chevalier of the Ordre National du Quebec (2004).



(1) Please note: Several published sources listed below have 1932 as Vaillancourt’s birth year. We use 1929, as do the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Heritage Information Network*, the Ordre National du Quebec, The Canadian Encyclopedia, and most sources.

(2) The expression “Quebec's political prisoners” is used to describe violent members of Quebec independence and liberation groups, such as the FLQ (Front de liberation du Quebec), who were jailed for murders, bombings and armed robberies in the 1960s (aka: terrorists). As of 1970, more than 20 of them were in jail. During the ‘October Crisis’ of 1970 the FLQ, who instigated the crisis by kidnapping two government officials and murdering one, demanded the release of 23 “political prisoners”. Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia (see AskART book references and online)

(3) Francoise Sullivan (see AskART) apprenticed under Vaillancourt in the 1960s. Source: National Gallery of Canada.


The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century”(2010), by Brian Foss, Anne Whitelaw, Sandra Paikowsky (see AskART book references)

Benezit Dictionary of Artists (2006), English version (see AskART book references)

Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art: From its Beginnings to 2000 (2002), by Anne Newlands (see AskART book references)

The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references)

Who's Who in American Art, 2001 – 2002, 24th edition (2001), edited by Donald Bunton (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century (1999), by Joan Murray (see AskART book references)

A to Z of Canadian Art: artists & art terms (1997), by Blake McKendry (see AskART book references)

Contemporary Canadian Artists (1997), edited by Robert Lang (see AskART book references)

Art and Architecture in Canada (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)

The Canadian Encyclopedia, Second Edition (1988), edited by James H. Marsh (see AskART book references)

Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references)

Creative Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth Century Creative and Performing Arts (1972), by Helen M. Rodney (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art Today (1970), by William Townsend (see AskART book references)

Agnes Etherington Art Centre (1968), by Frances K. Smith (see AskART book references)

Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art (1967), by R.H. Hubbard and J.R. Ostiguy (see AskART book references)

Canadian Heritage Information Network* (birthdate and museums)

Art Gallery of Ontario (book and catalogue lists online)

Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (exhibition summaries online)

Smithsonian Institute Research Information System* [SIRIS] (“Vaillancourt Fountain”)

CBC Digital Archives (October Crisis)

Canada History Archive (FLQ)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Written and submitted by M.D. Silverbrooke.






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