Artwork by Marc-Aurèle Fortin,  Paysage avec maisons

Marc-Aurèle Fortin
Paysage avec maisons

oil on board
signed lower right
24 x 48 ins ( 61 x 121.9 cms )

Auction Estimate: $40,000.00$30,000.00 - $40,000.00

Price Realized $31,200.00
Sale date: March 26th 2024

Galerie l’Art français, Montreal
Private Collection, Ontario
Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Germain Lefebvre, Janine Leroux-Guillaume et al., “Marc-Aurèle Fortin: peintre-graveur, 1888-1970”, Montreal, 1983, page 76
Colin S. MacDonald, “A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 1: A-F”, 5th Edition, Revised and Expanded, Ottawa, 1997
Born in Sainte-Rose, Marc-Aurèle Fortin’s early artistic training came at home under the tutelage of artists including Ludger Larose and Edmond Dyonnet before his studies would take him to Chicago, New York, Boston and, later, to France. It was after a brief trip to France in 1920 that Fortin began to work full-time as a painter and to show his work, which included scenes of the island of Montreal, predominantly rural at the time, and of his birthplace Sainte-Rose, north of the island. During the summers, he travelled to Quebec City, Île d’Orléans and the Charlevoix region, sketching and painting houses and rural scenes. These vibrant works that capture the charm of small-town Quebec are what the artist became best known for in his career. Fortin appreciated Quebec history, the life of the rural villages and landscape, saying "Just like the French, we must excel in landscape". Author Germain Lefebvre describes the artist’s range of Quebec subjects: “From countryside to city, he painted the peaceful roads of St. Rose, his birthplace, the mountains of Piedmont and the fishermen boats in the Gaspé. He witnessed the strong progress of urbanization: a network of railways in the district of Hochelaga, construction of the Jacques- Cartier bridge and the maritime port of Montreal."

“Paysage avec maisons” is quintessentially Fortin, with its billowy clouds, verdant trees and quaint farmhouses in shades of blue, yellow and pink. Fortin’s highly decorative, colourful landscapes celebrate the picturesque in nature. Despite a traditional training, he developed a modern view of rural subjects. Lefebvre describes the uniqueness of Fortin’s charming depictions of nature: “Fortin experiments with the most varied techniques, developing a pictorial language to translate more expressive emotions, feelings. The arabesques of the line, the contrasts and harmonies of colour, movement of the composition, this is what captivates the painter and spurs his research to distinguish his work from the cliches of the small landscape artists.”

Fortin was particularly talented and innovative in his use of colour throughout his prolific career. He began experimenting with watercolours in 1918, when he took an interest in depicting large elm trees in vibrant shades of green. This led to further watercolours and oils in vibrant and cheerful colour combinations, and increasingly large trees. In the late 1930s, Fortin began his “black period” and “grey period”, experimenting with the application of pure colours onto a black or grey surface. He then mixed watercolour with black pastels and pencils, which created moodier, monochromatic compositions. Late in his career, Fortin discovered casein, which excited him due to its similarities to watercolour but with more opacity.

In 1963, a retrospective show of Fortin’s work was held at the National Gallery of Canada. In the exhibition catalogue, Jean-René Ostiguy describes the artist’s uniquely colourful and pleasing style: “After his trip to Europe, when his style came close to resembling that of the Group of Seven, he succeeded in preserving a quality of expression belonging to the people... Fortin oscillated between decorative imagery and Fauvism. When he was at his best, he mingled the two...”.

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Marc-Aurèle Fortin
(1888 - 1970) RCA, ARCA

Born in Ste-Rose, north of Montreal, Marc-Aurèle Fortin studied art in the evenings while he made a living. His father was a judge and did not approve of his son studying art because he thought it was not a practical way of making a living. He attended the Ecole du Plateau, where he studied under Ludger Larose (1906-1908) and at the Council of Arts & Manufactures, Montreal under Edmond Dyonnet.

Around 1908, he became employed by the post office department in Montreal and from there travelled west to Edmonton, where he worked as a bank clerk and at several other jobs until he saved enough money to go to the United States for study at the Art Institute of Chicago with Edward J. Timmons (c. 1910), also studying in New York City and Boston.

Fortin returned to Montreal in 1914. He painted landscapes at Ste-Rose as well as at Piedmont and Montreal Harbour. He made a short trip to France and England (1920-22), which influenced his style. He exhibited in Chicago (1929) and at Pretoria, South Africa (1930). In 1935, he was again in Europe, where he painted in southern France and northern Italy.

On his return to Canada, he exhibited at T. Eaton Company in Montreal. During one of his exhibitions in 1937, St. George Burgoyne of “The Gazette” noted. “…Mr. Fortin is courageous; individual and an experimenter and many of the works on view suggest that the treatment might conceivably be more effective if employed on big scale decorations, rather than on pictures for the embellishment of the average room…” Burgoyne, in a 1938 review, praised his resourcefulness in finding new pictorial angles particularly in his water colours and also how effective were his smaller harbour scenes. It was during this year that Fortin’s work was chosen for the exhibit at the Tate Gallery, London, in “A Century of Canadian Art”. He received further recognition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art’s Spring Exhibition in 1938 for his water colour landscape, “Les Eboulements” (1938), which won the Jessie Dow Prize.

He won a bronze medal at the N.Y. World’s Fair (1939). In 1945, he took part in the show, “Canadian Art in Brazil”, when Marcelle-Louis Proux, writing in the Planalto of Sao Paulo, noted, “He is a brilliant colourist, who looks on painting as a ‘plastic poetry’.” By this time, he had made trips to the Gaspé, Baie-Saint-Paul, and Lac St-Jean regions.

In 1955, Fortin became ill and stopped painting for seven years. His legs had to be amputated. He began his long road to recovery and painted from his wheelchair. Writing on his 1963 retrospective show at the Mount Royal Art Centre, Raymond Heard reflected, “A gentle and nostalgic world is reflected in Mr. Fortin’s canvases. It is a world of curdled clouds and patchwork field in which anonymous rustics labor in the shadow of lonely, wind-tossed elms. When he turns his eye to the city, Mr. Fortin sees rows of quaint Old World dwellings in Quebec, or broad views of Montreal in the days before the urban sprawl scrambled much of the beauty into an untidy blur of smoke and concrete.”

In 1963, a retrospective show of Fortin’s work was held at the National Gallery of Canada and in the exhibition catalogue, Jean-René Ostiguy noted, “After his trip to Europe, when his style came close to resembling that of the Group of Seven, he succeeded in preserving a quality of expression belonging to the people, a kind of crudeness which is regarded by some as violent but which really resulted from his brusque execution of his work…. Fortin oscillated between decorative imagery and Fauvism. When he was at his best, he mingled the two…”

Literature Source:
"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 1: A-F, 5th Edition, Revised and Expanded", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1997