René Richard, self-portrait, 1925
René Richard, born in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland in 1895, is remembered as a remarkable and charming man who followed his passions. He spent the first half of his life in search of himself, surviving in the wilderness in harsh conditions. Richard’s father had emigrated from Switzerland to settle in Alberta in 1910-11, but Richard chose a nomadic existence among the Cree and Inuit in Canada’s North. All alone in these wide empty spaces, Richard became an artist. In 1927, he decided to study painting in Paris, where he met Canadian painter Clarence Gagnon. He travelled in France and in Switzerland.
Upon his return to Canada in 1930, he again took up trapping, before finally settling in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1942 where he spent the rest of his life. In the 1950-60s, based on his old sketches, he completed a remarkable series of large formats on the Canadian North. In 1975, he illustrated The Hidden Mountain, a novel by Gabrielle Roy. He died in 1982 in Baie-Saint-Paul.
Richard painted the luminous, brightly-coloured landscapes of the Charlevoix region. Richard’s work shines a light on many aspects of Canada’s natural landscape and social history and represents a major contribution to Canadian art.
His style is halfway between traditional figurative painting and the emerging Quebec expressionism of the 1950s.
He received the Order of Canada in 1973.
Source: René Richard, Ville de Montréal, Fondation René Richard, 1986; Encyclopedia of French cultural heritage in North America