Maria Chapdelaine

“ . . . these magical little paintings are, in the opinion of many, the finest series of illustrations ever produced by a Canadian artist. Gagnon's familiarity with and love for rural Quebec and its' people . . ."

Robert McMichael, excerpt from the Silver Anniversary, 1981.

Title Page - Maria Chapdelaine
Publisher's Notes . . .

Robert McMichael introduced me to the collection of 54 artworks created by Clarence Gagnon to illustrate the Mornay edition of Maria Chapdelaine. They were housed in a special room and shone like little jewels, each one a masterpiece in its' own right. I was privileged to be given full access by Bob to photograph and capture each one, unframed to eliminate any reflections created by the glass.


Col. R.S.McLaughlin ensured the legacy of the collection by purchasing it in its' entirety from the Gagnon estate and donating the collection to the McMichael Gallery shortly before his death.


I dedicate this edition to these two patrons of the arts, for their foresight and generousity in ensuring the preservation of this truly Canadian treasure.


I am honoured to present this 100th Anniversay limited edition, reproduced for the first time since the éditions Mornay, using the original illustrations by Clarence Gagnon. In the true tradition of a private press, I have hand selected all materials to make a truly prestigious edition. This edition has been hand embellished by artisans, personally supervised by me.


I would be remiss not to include a brief history of this iconic Canadian novel.


Louis Hémon, the author, was tragically killed in July of 1913 shortly after completing his manuscript for Maria Chapdelaine and never knew the worldwide recognition his work was to receive.  Born in Brest, France in 1880, Louis grew up in Paris moving to London, England after his military service to begin his writing career. In October 1911 he left for Canada, working for Samuel Bédard as a farm labourer in Péribonka. It was  here that the story of Maria Chapdelaine was penned.


Shortly after WWI, Georges and Antoinette Mornay became known for their "Fine Book" editions. These editions included colour illustrations, were limited in number and used only the finest of materials. Situated in Paris, in 1929 they commissioned Gagnon to produce 54 illustrations for their edition of Maria Chapdelaine. This edition of 2,080 books was released in 1933 to resounding critical acclaim. In 1942, during WWII, a Mornay edition commanded a record price of $2,000 at auction in Paris and is still highly sought after today .


Clarence Gagnon (1881-1942) was a Canadian artist, known for his paintings of rural Quebec's Baie St. Paul area. Gagnon was the perfect choice to illustrate Maria Chapdelaine for Mornay's edition with his firsthand knowledge and love of Quebec's pioneer life and countryside. In 1919, Gagnon left for Paris and spent the next three years executing the 54 illustrations for the publisher. His signature style of light and shadow brings to life the words of Louis Hémon's tale.


Marius Barbeau, a founder of Canadian anthropology, said: " . . . in Gagnon's art we can slip back into a dream, delighting in the colours and tranquillity of times past".