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Louis-Philippe Hébert, Sculptor

For the week of Monday January 23, 2012

On January 27, 1850, Louis-Philippe Hébert was born in Sainte-Sophie-d’Halifax (Sainte-Sophie-de-Mégantic), Quebec. Over the course of his career, this prolific and highly talented artist established himself as a leader in the field of sculpture and commemorative monuments.

Louis-Philippe Hébert
© William Notman & Son / circa 1898

Passionately interested in sculpture from his earliest years, Louis-Philippe turned to the art form following a short stay in Rome, where he visited churches and museums. At 22, he began an apprenticeship with Adolphe Rho, then for six years furthered his training in the studio of the celebrated painter Napoléon Bourassa and at the school of the Conseil des arts et manufactures de la province de Québec.

In 1875, Louis-Philippe Hébert worked under Bourassa’s direction on the decor of the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes Chapel in Montréal. Striking out on his own in 1879, he was commissioned for some 60 pieces in wood to embellish Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ottawa.

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Winged Genius on the Monument to Edward VII, Phillips Square, Montréal
©Jean Gagnon / 2009

Turning from wood to bronze, in 1880 Hébert received a commission for the first public statue of a Canadian personality, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry. In 1882, he won an international competition for a monument to Sir Georges-Étienne Cartier, to be placed on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Four years later, he was commissioned for 10 other statues to adorn the legislative buildings in Quebec City. This commission included a paid trip to Paris to study the works of great artists and perfect his style.

Hébert liked France immensely, went back several times, and even stayed there for a few years with his family. Though dividing his time between France and Canada from 1887 to 1914, Louis-Philippe Hébert sculpted numerous works in wood and bronze, and designed and produced a number of monuments. In 1913–1914, he inaugurated three major public monuments, the crowning achievement of his career: Marie-Madeleine Jarret de Verchères in Verchères, Edward VII in Montréal, and the Boer War Memorial in Calgary.

Louis-Philippe Hébert was much decorated, and his works include many statues and statuettes in wood and bronze, busts, and some 50 commemorative and funerary monuments. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts as of 1880, was awarded the Confederation Medal of Canada and many other prestigious international awards from France, Britain and Italy. Several of his works have been displayed in six international exhibitions.

Louis-Philippe Hébert, recognized as the “dean of Canadian commemorative statuary,” was designated as a person of national historical importance because of his contribution to Canadian art. Today, his statues in wood can still be admired in the Notre-Dame Roman Catholic Basilica in Ottawa, a national historic site.

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