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speaking another language, in the context of another economy - while
in Canada, and more especially in Quebec, the same painting evoked
the nation. Here no one doubted that Horatio Walker's art expressed
something of the vivacious authenticity of the founding fathers' (116).
William Brymner (1855-1925), one of Canada's first great art teach-
ers, shares a similar affection for rural life, as we see in Ils aimaient à lire
dans les ruisseaux fuyants (The topics they loved they read in running
brooks), also from 1885 (figure 4.2), which adds some intriguing dimen-
sions to a similar configuration of components.
Here the farmhouse occupies the right foreground, while the creek
leads the eye past the fields in the middle to the mountains in the dis-
tance. As Janet Braide notes, 'it is a work of soft beauty, its success cre-
ated by the sensitive way in which the artist has once again painted
tonal relationships. There is a new compositional element on which
Brymner would rely again: the central position of one tree' (31). Indeed,
the leaning tree dominates the composition while dividing it diago-
nally, thereby showcasing the children, whose presence raises issues of
family, ancestry, and promise for the future that characterize the writ-
ing of the time. Quite atypical is the title, borrowed from Shakespeare's
As You Like It (act two, scene one), which invokes a sense of poetry and
the written word to add a cultural dimension, as does the metaphorical
use of the word 'lire' when applied to a natural phenomenon. Clearly,
even for the young French Canadians, nature is a set of signs that can be
deciphered - as Lydia Bouchard puts it, 'un rapport nature / culture qui
donne la primauté à une nature familière et sereine' (20; a nature / cul-
ture relationship that favours a familiar and serene view of nature) - yet
whose message remains ambivalent, as it does in one of the nineteenth
century's greatest masterpieces, Laure Conan's Angéline de Montbrun .
Angéline de Montbrun : The Interior Landscape
First published in 1881-2 in La Revue canadienne , Laure Conan's Angéline
de Montbrun is nearly universally considered to be the first psychologi-
cal novel in Quebec literature. 10 Accordingly, the novel's landscape rep-
resentation itself takes on a decidedly psychological tint, as Angéline
suggests in a key late entry to her diary: 'La nature n'est jamais pour
nous qu'un reflet, qu'un écho de notre vie intime.' (189; For us, nature
is never more than a reflection, an echo of our intimate life.) The exterior
landscape reflects an interior nexus of desires, fears, and meditations,
which constitutes the crux of the plot and the thrust of the ideology in
this highly complex and beautifully constructed novel.
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