Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter Seven
Liberation and Modernity
in the Wake of the War
Much as the period from the turn of the century to the First World War
had witnessed profound changes in society and technology, favouring
the adaptation of the dynamic properties of Impressionism to Canadian
painting and literature (chapter five), the years within and following
the Second World War saw radical changes occur in Quebec, in this case
with artistic innovations announcing, accompanying, perhaps even in-
augurating cultural and societal transformation.
Paul-Émile Borduas, considered by many as the first original Canadian
painter, begins his earth-shaking manifesto, Refus global (Total Refusal),
with a devastating description of Quebec society: 'Rejetons de modestes
familles canadiennes françaises, ouvrières ou petites bourgeoises, de
l'arrivée du pays à nos jours restées françaises et catholiques par résis-
tance au vainqueur, par attachement arbitraire au passé, par plaisir et
orgueil sentimental et autres nécessités … Tenu à l'écart de l'évolution
universelle de la pensée pleine de risques et de dangers.' (45; Descendants
of modest French-Canadian families, labourers or petit bourgeois, from
our arrival on this soil up to the present day kept French and Catholic by
resistance to the conqueror, by an irrational attachment to the past, by
self-indulgence and sentimental pride and other compulsions … shielded
from the broader evolution of thought as too risky and dangerous.) This
conservative isolationism seemed particularly anachronistic in light of
social, industrial, urban, and technological advances during and follow-
ing the Second World War, 1 and would reach its nadir, for Borduas, from
1944 to 1959, during the regime of the ultra-conservative Quebec pre-
mier Maurice Duplessis. Determined to shelter traditional values and
avoid assimilation, Duplessis sought more political autonomy and
greater cultural isolation for the province. Yet, the bastion that wards off
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