Marc-Aurèle Suzor-Coté, R.C.A. (1869-1937)

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Born: 6 April 1869, Arthabaska, Quebec, Canada
Died: 27 January 1937, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA

At the time of his death in 1937, painter, sculptor, church decorator, Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté was regarded as the most versatile artist that French Canada has produced. Born in Arthabaska, 117 km southwest of Quebec City, Suzor-Coté showed a talent for drawing while in secondary school and in 1887, was apprenticed to painter-decorator Joseph-Thomas Rousseau with whom he worked on the churches of Saint-Christophe d'Arthabaska and Sainte-Anne de Sorel.

In 1891, intent on advancing his art education, he embarked on the first of many voyages to France. In 1892, he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts under Léon Bonnat, and at the Colarossi Academy, with Ferdinand Cormon and Henri Harpignies. During this first Parisian sojourn, he ably responded to the academic lessons in rendering human form, and was introduced to a plein air study of nature, sketching in the countryside near Cernay northwest of Paris.  Rapidly demonstrating his newfound talents, he exhibited for the first time at the Art Association of Montreal's (AAM) Spring Exhibition where he showed Cernay landscapes and some figurative works.  In 1894, in the Salon of the Société des artistes français he showed more views of Cernay. He also painted interiors, genre subjects, and still lifes at this time.

Returning to Quebec in 1894, he rented a studio at the YMCA in Montreal, and in 1895, completed the building of a studio in Arthabaska. Applying his skills as a painter in oils and pastel, Suzor-Coté sought portrait commissions and consolidated a network of critics and collectors through connections with prominent local families. During this time, he continued to exhibit annually at the Art Association of Montreal, and in 1897, exhibited for the first time at the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) annual exhibition, showing four landscapes.

On a second stay in France, from 1901-04, Suzor-Coté returned to his studies at the Julian and Colarossi academies, and also made copies at the Louvre and Musée Luxembourg. He also travelled to the Cernay, Normandy, and Brittany regions of France, focusing on the poetic effects of light in the landscape. In 1900, he exhibited ten works at the Canadian Pavilion at the Paris World Fair - an important professional milestone in his career for which he was awarded a bronze medal. A large genre painting, Between Neighbours, Norman Peasants, was praised for its tone and expressiveness, and his pastel landscapes admired because they retained all the solidity and colour of oils. Exhibited again at the Paris Salon of 1901, earned him a honourable mention, and in June of the same year, he was awarded the Palmes d'Officier d'Académie.

In September 1901, Suzor-Coté had the first major exhibition of 65 works at his dealer Scott and Sons in Montreal, followed by another exhibition in 1903. In the same year, the National Gallery of Canada purchased three paintings including the large, dramatic painting, Return from the Harvest. Still in Paris, he exhibited winter landscapes of Arthabaska at the 1906 Salon.

In the first decade of the 20th century, Suzor-Coté also explored history painting. In 1902, he submitted The Death of Montcalm for a competition to decorate the Quebec Legislative Assembly. Despite the failure of this proposal, in 1903, he received a commission from the Government of Quebec to paint two canvasses for the Quebec Legislative Assembly. By 1907, he had completed a large canvas Jacques Cartier Meeting the Indians at Stadacona, 1535. Although critically acclaimed in Paris, it failed to win acceptance at home where Suzor-Coté's interpretation of this historical event was deemed unacceptable, thus prompting the Quebec Government to renege on its offer to purchase the painting. Finally in 1923, the Quebec Government bought it for the future Musée de la Province du Québec, today the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

Back in Canada from 1907-1910, Suzor-Coté continued to paint portraits at his studio in Arthabaska and in Montreal, and now focused principally on landscape subjects inspired by the village and its environs. He was also commissioned to produce decorative panoramic landscapes for the Thomas Fortune Ryan residence in Oak Ridge, Virginia.  During this period exhibitions in Montreal, Winnipeg, Liverpool (England), and with the Ontario Society of Artists and the Canadian Art Club, resulted in enthusiastic critical reception to the diversity of his subject matter and his expert handling of different techniques. Commenting on the 1907 exhibition at Scott and Sons, one critic praised Suzor-Coté's versatility: Versatility in this case means mastery of the means of half a score of different schools and methods. The artist is an eclectic of the most pronounced kind. Indeed, in 1909, he received a commission to paint the portrait of Sir Wilfrid Laurier (also a native of Arthabaska), and began his distinct series of thawing river winter landscapes - a subject that he would explore until 1925.

In 1911, during a short French sojourn, he was named an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA), with full membership following in 1914. And in 1912, his Smog, Port of Montreal, 1912, was awarded the Jessie Dow prize at the AAM's Spring Exhibition.

By 1913, Suzor-Coté's reputation as a landscape painter of impressionistic winter views of melting streams and sun-filled fields was at its height. Critics were enchanted by the rich jewel-like colours of the water and sky, and dazzled by the textured surfaces of snow with their contrasting cool blue shadows. In 1925, Suzor-Coté was awarded the AAM's Jessie Dow prize for a second time for Passing Shadows, Nicolet River, now in the collection of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

Suzor-Coté's affection for his homeland also extended to its people. From 1909, he made a series of portraits of the local farmers and their wives, working in charcoal, pastel and oil. His familiarity with these types also made him an ideal candidate to illustrate Louis Hémon's 1914 novel, Maria Chapdelaine, and in 1916, Suzor-Coté completed a series of charcoal drawings to be included in the edition published by Joseph-Alphonse LeFebvre.

Suzor-Coté made his sculptural debut in Paris in 1907, when he exhibited his plaster model of The Trapper. Four years later, and into the early 1920s, he returned to sculpture, modeling the weathered faces and tired bodies of the habitants. His Caughnawaga Women of 1924, with their flowing robes, heavy baskets and bodies bent against the wind, received particular acclaim.

Beginning in 1915 and continuing into the late 1920s, Suzor-Coté also turned his attentions to the female nude. Observing his models modestly from the back, he worked in oil and pastel, expressing an array of moods and emotions and in a variety of settings, and garnering much public enthusiasm.

In 1927, at the height of his powers, Suzor-Coté suffered a stroke that left him semi-paralysed and unable to work. In 1929, he moved to Daytona Beach with his nurse Mathilde Savard (whom he married in 1933) and slowly began working again, until his death there in 1937.

Selected Public Collections
Arthbaska, QC, Musée Laurier
Calgary, AB, Glenbow Museum
Edmonton, AB, Edmonton Art Gallery
Hamilton, ON, Art Gallery of Hamilton
Montreal, QC, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Ottawa, ON, National Gallery of Canada
Quebec, QC, Musée de la Civilisation
Quebec, QC, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
Saskatoon, SK, Mendel Art Gallery
Toronto, ON, Art Gallery of Ontario
Vancouver, BC, Vancouver Art Gallery
Victoria, BC, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Winnipeg, MB, Winnipeg Art Gallery

Selected Solo Exhibitions
1901, 1908, 1912, William Scott and Sons Gallery, Montreal, QC
1908, Special Loan Collection of Oil Paintings: The Work of A. Suzor-Coté ''Hors Concours'' of the ''Paris Salon,'' France, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, MB
1927, Watson Galleries, Montreal, QC
1929, Rétrospective Suzor-Coté, École des beaux-arts, Montreal, QC
1964, Rétrospective Suzor-Coté, Galerie L'Art vivant, Montreal, QC
1977, Rétrospective Suzor-Coté, Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal, QC
1987, Suzor-Coté: Back to Arthabaska 50 Years Later, Musée Laurier, Arthabaska, QC
1991, Suzor- Coté l'œuvre sculpté, Musée du Québec, Quebec, QC
2002-03, Suzor-Coté, 1869-1937: Light and Matter, Musée du Québec, Quebec, QC; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON

 


A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald,

National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada.

 

Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Canadian Art Dealer & Gallery in Montreal

M.A. Suzor-Coté, R.C.A. (1869-1937)

"Still Life with Lilies", 1894

Oil on canvas 25.1/2  x 32 in.  (SOLD)

Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Canadian Art Dealer & Gallery in Montreal

M.A. Suzor-Coté, R.C.A. (1869-1937)

"The Old Pioneer" and "Wife of the Old Pioneer", 1912

Bronze sculptures   (SOLD)

Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Canadian Art Dealer & Gallery in Montreal

M.A. Suzor-Coté, R.C.A. (1869-1937)

"Still Life with Fruit"

Pastel 28  x 36 in.  (SOLD)

Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Canadian Art Dealer & Gallery in Montreal

M.A. Suzor-Coté, R.C.A. (1869-1937)

"Apple Trees and Haystacks, Beauce, France", 1905

Oil on canvas 21.1/2  x 32 in.  (SOLD)

Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Canadian Art Dealer & Gallery in Montreal

M.A. Suzor-Coté, R.C.A. (1869-1937)

"Dusk, Lac à l'Eau Clair"

Oil on canvas 22  x 25.1/2 in.  (SOLD)

Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Canadian Art Dealer & Gallery in Montreal

M.A. Suzor-Coté, R.C.A. (1869-1937)

"Still Life with Apples and Chestnuts", 1902

Oil on canvas 18.1/2  x 25.3/4 in.  (SOLD)