Backgrounder

Ozias Leduc is considered one of the most significant painters in Canadian art history. Born in Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, he had a long and prolific career in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His extensive and varied body of work includes many paintings that are masterpieces of Canadian art. Recognized as a great painter of religious art, he decorated more than 30 churches and chapels in Quebec, Nova Scotia and the eastern United States during his lifetime. Leduc’s works are profoundly original: his environment-inspired subjects, the influence of symbolism, a style which highlights his talents for design, colour, and composition, place Leduc’s art at the nexus of tradition and modernity.

At a very young age, Ozias showed interest and talent in drawing. Following his studies, he left for Montréal, where he spent his evenings drawing in the workshop of the Art Association of Montreal (now called the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). In 1883, he worked for Carli, a manufacturer of statues in Montreal. It was while working with Adolphe Rho, a painter and sculptor from Bécancour, and Luigi Capello, a painter and decorator from Montréal, that he was introduced to the art of decorating church walls.

Starting in 1891, he took part in many Art Association of Montreal exhibits. In 1892, his painting Nature morte, livres earned him first prize for the best submission in the under-30 age group. In 1897, he furthered his education with a brief stay in London and Paris. Following this trip, he began painting landscapes into which he incorporated some aspects of his familiar environment, including Mont Saint Hilaire and the Richelieu River. Leduc was primarily influenced by symbolism, which seeks to express the spiritual aspect of people and objects by giving them allegorical meanings, and by creating strange or mysterious situations.

During his career, Ozias Leduc travelled and lived away from Saint Hilaire for a time. Between church contracts, Leduc moved back to Saint Hilaire, where he lived for the remainder of his life. In addition to working on many paintings in his workshop, which he named Correlieu, he tended his orchard located at the foot of the mountain, and, as a school trustee and municipal councillor, encouraged education and the beautification of his village.

During his prolific career, Leduc painted still lifes, landscapes, portraits, genre scenes as well as religious works used to decorate churches. Notre Dame de la Présentation church in Shawinigan, painted between 1942 and 1955, was his last masterpiece. Leduc also wrote poetry, trained apprentices, and was involved in his community of Saint-Hilaire. Leduc is a famous Canadian artist who greatly influenced Quebec painters throughout the 20th century, particularly Paul Émile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle.