Dr. Gagnon, Chair in Canadian Art History
Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj
by Barbara Black
Stephen Jarislowsky is a well-known Montreal investment counsellor, and his wife Gail has a Masters in English literature from Concordia. The couple, who are longtime art-lovers, were obviously elated with the results of their gift.
The distinguished Quebec art
historian François-Marc Gagnon is the first holder of the Institutes
Chair in Canadian Art Studies. He gave a capacity audience in the downtown
Faculty Club a typically engaging talk on the early painter of life in
New France, Cornelius Krieghoff.
Much loved in English Canada,
particularly for Christmas cards, Krieghoffs bucolic, often humorous
scenes of habitant and aboriginal life have been less popular in French
Canada, thanks in part to a denunciation by the influential critic Gérard
Morisset early in the 20th century.
However, Gagnon showed how
Germanic myths about the redemptive powers of the forest informed Krieghoffs
paintings of the Canadian wilderness, and pointed to details in his paintings
that showed his sympathy with his French-Canadian neighbours.
A dynamic and inspiring teacher,
Dr. Gagnon taught for many years at the Université de Montréal,
where he conducted significant research and has been intimately involved
in the joint PhD program that involves Concordia, Université de
Montréal, UQAM and Laval.
His expertise is internationally
recognized, particularly on the Automatiste movement of the 1940s and
early 50s, and he won the Governor-Generals Award in 1978 for his
critical biography of Paul-Emile Borduas.
As Professor Brian Foss noted
in his introduction, however, the average Quebecer is more likely to have
caught Gagnons passion for art through his television programs on
the subject. Made some time ago, these programs can still be seen on Télé-Québec
Foss told the audience, François-Marc
tells stories of municipal trash collectors calling out a string of Canadian
artists names when they recognize him in the street perhaps
the ultimate vindication of ones effectiveness as a teacher.
For many years,
Dr. Gagnon said before the reception, I have dreamed of an institute
in Canadian art, not only to encourage research in the field, but also
to make the general public more aware of its richness.
Now, Concordia and Gail
and Stephen Jarislowsky are making that dream a reality. Concordia, incidentally,
was the first university in North America to offer a PhD in Canadian art
Dean of Fine Arts Christopher
Jackson said that given Concordias longstanding commitment to the
study of Canadian art, the establishment of the Institute is particularly
Loren Lerner, chair of Art
History, told the audience that the first international fellow, Rosa Schulenburg,
will come to Concordia this summer from Germany to do research and teach
a course. She is interested in popular art, especially outdoors.
The Institute will seek to
further the appreciation and understanding of Canadian art through dealings
with the academic and museum communities, research, projects and publications,
conferences and the production of materials for teaching at all levels
and the general public.
In keeping with a newly established practice regarding donors to the university, an inscribed copy of Dr. Gagnons lavishly illustrated biography of Paul-Émile Borduas has been acquired for the Webster Library in the Jarislowskys name.