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 Ozias Leduc  (1864 - 1955)

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada      Known for: landscape, portrait and religious painting, church decoration, murals

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
NOEL LEDUC, C.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ozias Leduc LL.D, ARCA (1864 – 1955)

“Leduc is the unique tangible link that we have with the first century of art history in Canada. Without him, there would be no continuity.” (1)

“All of Leduc’s work, like his life itself, exists outside time. He is an anachronism.” (2)

“The most astonishing and most mystical of Canadian Painters,” (3)

A painter, muralist, draftsman, illustrator, church decorator, and poet, Ozias Leduc was born in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, a town about 20 miles east of Montreal, and died in St. Hyacinthe a town about 10 miles east of Mont-Saint-Hilaire. Though he spent most of his life in the small town of his birth decorating churches and easel painting for recreation, posthumously, he is considered an important Canadian artist. While his genius was always there to see, his fame is probably largely due to the high regard for him held by his former apprentice Paul-Emile Borduas, one of Canada’s most influential Surrealist* and Abstract Expressionist* painters. Since 1960, virtually all comprehensive Canadian art history books discuss Leduc and hundreds of his paintings and drawings have been collected by Canadian museums. (4)

Leduc’s mediums included oil, watercolor, fresco*, charcoal, crayon, ink, graphite, stained glass, and even light fixtures for churches. His subjects were religion, still life, portraits, historical figures, landscapes, farm life, interiors, nudes, mysticism, spiritualism, allegory* and genre*. His styles were Realism*, Symbolism* and Impressionism*.

Quote: “He infused his humble subjects with religious, almost mystical dignity. Only his modesty and extreme retiring nature kept him from the recognition he deserved during his lifetime” (5)

As most of Leduc’s masterworks are now in museums and the few that are not rarely come up for auction, the best illustrations of his easel work can be found in the many books which discuss his art. Some suggestions are: Landmarks of Canadian Art (1978) and Canadian Art: From its Beginnings to 2000 (2002), both have excellent color illustrations of Leduc genre* works (Le Petit Liseur [The Young Student] and Boy with Bread); Home Truths: A Celebration of Family Life by Canada’s Best-Loved Painters (1997), has an illustration of his Impressionism (The Hayfield); Great Canadian Painting: A Century of Art (1966), has an illustration of his Art Nouveau* style (Neige Doree [Gilded Snow]); and Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art (1967), illustrates one of Leduc’s most famous still lifes The Farmer’s Supper. Please see AskART book references for more titles of illustrated books.

Leduc is considered a largely self taught artist. Any training he may have had is generally attributed to his apprenticeship painting murals with Luigi Capello (1843 – 1902) in Montreal (c.1880) and with Adolphe Rho (1839 – 1905) in Yamachiche, Quebec (1883). Leduc made his only trip to Europe (London and Paris)  in 1897; he travelled with Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté. Not much is known about Leduc’s activities during his eight month stay, however, it is generally noted that he was impressed with the works of artists such as Gustave Moreau, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Edward Burne-Jones, René Ménard, Alphonse Mucha, and especially Maurice Denis. Harper (p.221) and Reid (p. 113) note that Leduc’s painting didn’t change dramatically after his return to Canada, but that the influence of Maurice Denis and his symbolist theories  became evident in Leduc’s work over the years, and in 1928 Leduc sent his protégé Paul-Émile Borduas to study under Denis (Reid p. 209). (6)

Borduas, the future leader of the Automatists*, author of Refus Global*, and perhaps the most important 20th century guru of avant-garde art in Canada, worked as an apprentice under Leduc off and on for about a decade (c.1920 – 1931) and remained a lifelong friend. Borduas considered Leduc his most important teacher and influence. (7)

Quote: “Leduc had the vision of a mystic, iconographically expressed in his religious paintings, and deeply pervasive in his genre paintings and landscapes. To Borduas he was a mentor,” (8)

Quote: “I owe to him that rare permission to pursue one’s own fate; when it became evident that I might stand for some values contrary to his hopes, no opposition, no resistance was felt: his precious and steady sympathy did not change….I owe to him…the freedom to pass from the spiritual and pictorial atmospheres of the Renaissance to the power of the dream which opens on the future.” – Paul-Emile Borduas (9)

Although Leduc kept a relatively low public profile, he did frequently show his paintings and was included in several important exhibitions. He exhibited with the spring shows of the Art Association of Montreal (now Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) between 1891 and 1921, with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* between 1893 and 1920, with the Ontario Society of Artists* in 1902, the Canadian National Exhibition (Toronto) in 1915, and with the Group of Seven* in 1926.

His works were also included in the landmark exhibitions “Paintings by Canadian Artists”, City Art Museum, St. Louis [now Saint Louis Art Museum] (1918); the “British Empire Exposition”, Wembley, England (1924); “Exposition d'art Canadien”, Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris (1927); “Exhibition of Canadian Art”, Buenos Aires (1931); “A Century of Canadian Art”, Tate Gallery, London, England (1938); and in “The Development of Painting in Canada, 1665 – 1945”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1945). (10)

Posthumously, his works were included in “Canadian Painting”, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, B.C. (1958); “Eleven artists in Montreal, 1860 – 1960”, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1960) (11); “Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art”, National Gallery of Canada (1967); “Landscape Painting in Quebec (1800 – 1940)”, Quebec Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec City (1978); "O Kanada", Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany (1983); “The Division of Vision”, Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1994); “The Nature of Things”, Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (2000); “Book Illustration by Canadian Painters to 1916”, National Gallery of Canada (2004); “Canada Collects: Treasures from Across the Nation”, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2007); and “Expanding Horizons: Painting and Landscape Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860 – 1918”, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and touring (2009 – 2010).

During his life, Leduc was the subject of only two notable public venue solo exhibitions; one was at the Saint Sulpice Library, Montreal in 1916 and the other at Lycée [College] Pierre Corneille, Montreal in 1954 (retrospective). However, posthumously he has been the subject of several, beginning with “Ozias Leduc, 1864 – 1955” (retrospective), which showed at the National Gallery of Canada, the Quebec Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1956. Subsequently, there have been: “Ozias Leduc: Symbolist and Religious Painting”, National Gallery of Canada (1974); “Ozias Leduc the Draughtsman”, Concordia University, Montreal (1978); “Ozias Leduc: An Art of Love and Reverie”, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1996); and “The Colours of Ozias Leduc”, Joliette Art Museum, Quebec (2004).

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, there are over 600 Leduc works in the permanent collections of Canadian museums; the locations include the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, New Brunswick), Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec), Joliette Art Museum (Quebec), La Pulperie (Chicoutimi, Quebec), Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), McCord Museum of Canadian History (Montreal), McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (Quebec), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Musée Pierre-Boucher (Trois-Rivières, Quebec), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery (Owen Sound, Ontario), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba), and the National Gallery of Canada, which has 66 of his works in its collection.

Leduc’s book illustrations can be seen in Claude Paysan (1899) by Ernest Choquette, Contes vrais (1899) by Pamphile Lemay, Mignonne allons voir si la rose ... est sans épines (1912) by Guy Delahaye, and La Campagne Canadienne (1927) by Adélard Dugré.

Leduc worked until he was 90 years old and is said to have completed about 150 church murals and paintings (27 to 30 separate commissions) in Quebec, Nova Scotia and the eastern United States; their locations include his own parish church of Saint-Hilaire (1894 – 1899); St. Ninian's Cathedral, Antigonish, Quebec (1902 – 1903); St. Romuald, Farnham, Quebec (1905); St. Enfant-Jésus du Mile-End, Montreal (1916 – 1919); the Chapel of the Bishop's Palace, Sherbrooke, Quebec (1922 –  1932); the baptistry in Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal (1927 – 1928); Saints-Anges-Gardiens, Lachine, Quebec (1930 – 1931); and the Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Présentation, Shawinigan South, Quebec (1943 – 1955), which is a Canadian National Historic Site.

Leduc’s awards and honors include a prize for the best work done by an artist under thirty at the Art Association of Montreal annual exhibition in 1892, election as an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1916, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Montreal in 1938.

"Art teaches, informs. It uncovers the soul. No doubt it also has the power to sort the chaos of the unconscious into an orderly cosmos. It leads from disorder, suffering and unbalance to stability, harmony and joy."?– Ozias Leduc, in a letter to Paul-Émile Borduas, 1943
 

Footnotes:
(1) Source: Great Canadian Painting: A Century of Art (1966), by Elizabeth Kilbourn, p. 118 (see AskART book references).

(2) Source: Modern Painting in French Canada (1967), by Guy Viau, p. 12 (see AskART book references).

(3) Source: Painting in Canada: a history, Second edition (1977), by J. Russell Harper, p. 220 (see AskART book references).

(4) The increase in Leduc’s fame and perceived importance after his death can easily be seen in the exposure his life and work received in Canadian art history books through the years. For example, The Fine Arts in Canada written by Newton MacTavish in 1925, when Leduc was 61 years old, devotes one line to him – noting only his birth place, self taught education and ARCA membership; and Canadian Art - Its Origin and Development, authored by William Colgate in 1943, when Leduc was 79, only mentions that he illustrated “Claude Paysan” in a discussion of illustrators. On the other hand, R.H. Hubbard in his 1964 book The Development of Canadian Art describes Leduc as a “ virtually new discovery among Canadian painters”, devotes a half a page of text to him and includes two illustrations of his work; Dennis Reid’s 1973 A Concise History of Canadian Painting, devotes three pages of text to Leduc and has five illustrations of his work on additional pages; and J. Russell Harper’s 1977 Painting in Canada: a history, Second Edition also has three full pages of text about Leduc and includes two illustrations of his work on additional pages (see all in AskART book references).

(5) Source: Treasures of Canada (1980), by Alan E. Samuel, et al., p. 189.

(6) Please note: All artists mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with life dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

(7) “Leduc was a primary influence on his student Paul-Emile Borduas, who would later lead artists committed to abstraction.” Source: Canadian Paintings, Prints and Drawings (2007), by Anne Newlands, p.176 (see AskART book references).

(8) Borduas’s writings quoted in Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff, pp. 19 and 20 (see AskART book references).

(9.1) Ibid.

(9.2) Borduas’s student, Canadian abstract expressionist icon, Jean-Paul Riopelle also includes Leduc as one of “the painters who have influenced him most deeply”. Source: Four Decades: The Canadian Group of Painters and their contemporaries – 1930 - 1970, (1972), by Paul Duval, p. 109 (see AskART book references). 

(10) Please note: Some of our sources indicate there were more exhibitions with the CNE, we have only included the one for which there is provenance attached to a painting in the National Gallery collection. Our other sources for exhibitions are The Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online); Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art* (OSA exhibition source); Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: Spring Exhibitions 1880 – 1970 (1988), by Evelyn de R. McMann; and The Group of Seven: Art for a Nation (1995), by Charles C. Hill (see AskART book references).

(11) The other 10 artists are Cornelius Krieghoff, Antoine Plamondon, Robert Harris, William Brymer, J.W. Morrice, Maurice Cullen, Arthur Lismer, Goodridge Roberts, Paul-Emile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle. Source: The Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online).
 
Sources:
The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century (2010), by Brian Foss, Anne Whitelaw, Sandra Paikowsky (see AskART book references)
Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860 – 1918 (2009), edited by Hilliard T. Goldfarb (see AskART book references)
Abstract Painting in Canada (2008), by Roald Nasgaard (see AskART book references)
A National Soul: Canadian Mural Painting, 1860s – 1930s (2002), by Marylin Jean McKay (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)
Home Truths: A Celebration of Family Life by Canada’s Best-Loved Painters (1997), by Joan Murray (see AskART book references)
The Group of Seven: Art for a Nation (1995), by Charles C. Hill (see AskART book references)
Art and Architecture in Canada (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: Spring Exhibitions 1880 – 1970 (1988), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)
Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references)
Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)
Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880 – 1980" (1980), by Rebecca Sisler (see AskART book references)
Treasures of Canada (1980), by Alan E. Samuel, et al. (see AskART book references)
Landscape Painting in Quebec (1800 – 1940) (1978), by Claude Thibault (see AskART book references)
Landmarks of Canadian Art (1978), by Peter Mellen (see AskART book references)
Painting in Canada: a history, Second Edition (1977), by J. Russell Harper (see AskART book references)
Canadian Painting in the Thirties (1975), Charles C. Hill (see AskART book references)
A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)
High Realism in Canada (1974), by Paul Duval (see AskART book references)
A Concise History of Canadian Painting (1973), by Dennis Reid (see AskART book references)
Canadian Landscape Painting 1670 – 1930 (1973), by R.H. Hubbard (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)
Four Decades: The Canadian Group of Painters and their Contemporaries – 1930 - 1970, (1972), by Paul Duval (see AskART book references)
Early Painters and Engravers in Canada (1970), by J. Russell Harper (see AskART book references)
Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art (1967), by R.H. Hubbard and J.R. Ostiguy (see AskART book references)
Modern Painting in French Canada (1967), by Guy Viau (see AskART book references)
Great Canadian Painting: A Century of Art (1966), by Elizabeth Kilbourn (see AskART book references)
The Development of Canadian Art (1964), by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references)
The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III (1960), by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references)
Canadian Art - Its Origin and Development (1943), by William Colgate (see AskART book references)
The Fine Arts in Canada (1925), by Newton MacTavish (see AskART book references)
Canadian Heritage Information Network*
Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art*
Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online)
Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Présentation, Shawinigan South (website)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com. Glossaryhttp://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx.

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.
 
 
 


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