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René Richard: A Testimonial of Solitude

René Richard: A Testimonial of Solitude

( R.C.A.) René Richard (1895 – 1982)

René Richard’s artistic style interlaces close natural observation, and personal experience
as a way to poeticize his sensibility towards the land.

During his long trips up North in pursuit of solitude, Richard was never one to fully reject civilization nor effusively embrace wilderness. It was the state of in-between that Richard felt most comfortable, a state which allowed him the space for contemplation and the freedom to create. Richard would paint lively, colorful landscapes that danced between figurative and abstract, calling upon sensation rather than imitation.

Richard was a Swiss-born Canadian painter who settled in Canada with his family in 1909. Determined to learn the art and technique of painting, he took his first formal art lesson in Edmonton, Alberta. No soon after did he leave in 1927 to study full time in Paris, France.

During his time at school, he met a friend and soon to be painting companion Clarence Gagnon who encouraged him to work as an artist full-time. This leap of faith was not taken lightly by the young and enthusiastic Richard, who returned to Canada with a fresh perspective and an unstoppable desire to paint. Richard headed North once he arrived on Canadian soil, gathering inspiration from the landscape of Baie-Saint-Paul. During his trips hunting and trapping, he would create hundreds of sketches depicting the long wilderness journeys he had undergone.

It was Gagnon who first introduced Richard to painting En Plein Air, a concept and practice he had never once considered. Living outside in the most extreme conditions, made survival difficult and even more so to sketch. It was his will to create, and his perseverance to outlive the harsh conditions that translated an immense authenticity to each canvas.

Like most environmental artists, and poets who took a vow of solitude and headed north, each were in search of something. For Richard, it wasn’t an idyllic wilderness that sought to hide all human trace like many landscape painters of his time. Instead, he wanted to include his own experience with the Inuit, and First Nation people who lived in the North country. Homes, sled dogs, and ambiguous figures permeated the dense wilderness that he materialized through pencil and paint.

Known for his semi-abstract landscapes characterized by his rich impasto technique and deep, luscious palate, Richard captured the Quebec region of Charlevoix with more sensuality than any of his predecessors.



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