Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Côté by Edmond Dyonnet
Born in 1869 in Arthabaska, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté began his artistic career as a church decorator with the Joseph Rousseau company in St-Hyacinthe. From 1891 to 1894, he made the first of many trips to Paris, where he learned a traditional academic approach to the figure at the École des beaux-arts, and from 1897 to 1901, he studied at the Académies Colarossi and Julian. The influence of French landscape painter Henri Harpignies was also central to sensitizing his eye to the fleeting effects of light in winter landscapes. Although Suzor-Coté continued to travel extensively between Canada and different parts of Europe until 1912, he had resettled in his native village by 1907 and had begun to paint the rural inhabitants and rolling landscape near the Nicolet and Gosselin rivers in the style of the Impressionists, whose colourful, loosely brushed landscapes he had admired abroad. “Learn to see the beautiful in what surrounds you,” he said, “and that should also be good for your soul.” He died in Florida in 1937.
Inspired by the example of Norwegian artist Fritz Thaulow, whose paintings of snow-bordered rivers he had seen in Europe, Suzor-Coté continued to explore this theme in over 20 canvases that celebrate the changing harmonies of light as winter’s ice and snow submit to the sun’s radiance.
In sculpture he explored the themes of rural life depicted in his paintings and in his illustrations in 1916 for Louis Hémon’s Maria Chapdelaine.
Suzor-Coté’s use of a palette knife to flatten the thick impasto of the oil paint makes us aware both of the illusion of depth and of the material flatness of the canvas surface.
Suzor-Coté had exhibited a sculpture at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1907.
He won first prize at the Académie Julian for his 1898 painting The Death of Archimedes.
Source: Anne Newlands, Canadian art from its beginnings to 2000, Firefly books, Canada, 2000