Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
The description of the landscape in the first half of this passage would
be hard to distinguish from Marie-Victorin's prose; indeed, the portrait
of the painter, 'moderne et nostalgique' would be hard to distinguish
from that of Marie-Victorin himself or, for that matter, from that of other
painters of the same transitional generation, to whom we now turn.
Michel Nadeau sees the motif of the spring thaw as typical of French-
Canadian painting in the early decades of the twentieth century: 'Ils
voyaient dans ce thème une allégorie du temps: sa fuite, symbolisée par
l'eau qui, en coulant, s'oppose à l'immobilité de la neige, marque le pas-
sage du temps. Plusieurs artistes québécois se sont intéressés à ce sujet,
mais Suzor-Coté et Maurice Cullen furent les premiers à l'exploiter.' (27;
They saw in this theme an allegory of time: its flight, symbolized by the
water, which in its flow contrasted with the snow's immobility and
marked the passage of time. Several Quebecois painters were interested
in this subject, but Suzor-Coté and Cullen were the first to make full use
of it.) While one might question Nadeau's suggestion of 'Symbolism'
instead of 'Impressionism,' his linking of the theme to a general preoc-
cupation with change and complexity is telling and his introduction of
Maurice Cullen timely. Cullen's Près des Éboulements , 1928 (figure 5.1),
serves as an apt example of his fascination with the transformations of
light and colour brought to the landscape by the change of seasons and
the passage of time, exemplified in the flow of the Saint Lawrence River
juxtaposed with the immobility of the snow:
Although the theme is similar to that of the preceding Suzor-Coté
painting, Cullen's broader scale and composition in horizontal bands,
setting the farm in the foreground against the vast expanses of the Saint
Lawrence River in the mid ground and the mountain range and sky in
the far ground, is far more typical of the later landscape art of Quebec.
We assume an elevated viewpoint looking down on a centrally posi-
tioned farm that itself overlooks a village on the north shore of the river,
which is beginning to cast off its icy carapace, imparting to the now
flowing waters a bluish tint, picked up in the translucent shadows. The
direction of the shadows suggests a morning sun, which is confirmed
by the light illuminating the clouds and thus bringing them forward
towards the frontal plane of the canvas, while lending the entire scene
a general sense of tonal harmony that unifies the painting. While his
attention to atmosphere, colour, and light clearly reveals the influence
of the Impressionist works Cullen had encountered during his stays in
France, his broader swathes of colour and paint, his adherence to archi-
tecture, both in the buildings he includes and in the composition of
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