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sense of mystery in his commentary on the painting, Fleuron néo-gothique.
La porte Saint-Louis (figure 9.1): 'Les lieux de passage de notre ville con-
tri-buent à son charme secret et quelque peu mystérieux.' (57; Our city's
entranceways fuel its secret, somewhat mysterious charm.)
Here, Leclerc captures this aura of mystery surrounding the Saint-
Louis gate by the shadows and blurred details in the far ground and an
oblique viewpoint that averts a clear view down the street, which chan-
ges its name and identity from the modernized Grande-Allée, where
the would-be spectator is positioned, to the ancient rue Saint-Louis, on
the other side of the gate. He also heightens the sense of the past by the
heavy application of paint, into which he then etches lines to suggest
the separate flagstones in the foreground and the mortar-filled depres-
sions between the stones in the time-worn walls, as well as by the single
anachronistic carriage with no signs of the many automobiles and tour
busses that usually occupy the modern scene. This highlighting of a
central place against surrounding space is typical of Leclerc's approach
to painting, as Robert Filion notes in his introduction to Au cœur du
Vieux-Québec : 'Be it a garden, building, street or square, Leclerc's com-
positions are often constructed as follows: Dark shadow and bright
light in the foreground opening into a passage leading to a specific es-
thetic space. This framework invites the viewer to a well-lit centre of
interest, to which the eye is drawn … a wall, bell tower or tree. The
background constitutes a landscape, an atmosphere more evocative
than defined, an impression rather than a description' (6).
From Leclerc's painting, coupled with the passage from Hébert's
novel, we begin to glimpse the thematic possibilities configured by the
city: with its new appearance surrounding a past identity enclosed by
walls, accessible by a few gateways, the city mirrors not only Flora's
situation (protecting a past she refuses to explore) but also that of the
Quebecois nation (once set on repressing the bitter memory of the
Conquest, but now determined to discover the gateways to memory
and thus preserve the past in order to move forward). 7 A similar mix-
ture of personal and national past provided the impetus for Leclerc's
book: 'Cela invitait à remonter le temps pour y retrouver les sources de
l'inspiration première; cela voulait dire retourner là où tout a com-
mencé, autour de la Place d'Armes, au cœur du Vieux-Québec, revoir
les lieux, les endroits, les points de vue, qui les premiers, ont inspiré
mon travail des premières années.' (3; This anniversary bid me go back
in time to rediscover my original sources of inspiration, to return to
where it all began - Place d'Armes, the heart of Old Quebec - to revisit
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