FERRON, Marcelle : 1924 - 2001

Marcelle Ferron was born in Louiseville in 1924 in a middle-class family. She was only seven when her mother passed away. Her father, a notary, provided for a very liberal education for the whole family.

At the age of three, Marcelle Ferron suffered from tuberculosis of the bones. Her frequent stays in the hospital moulded her independence, her fire and her love of life. The after-effects of this disease marked her for life.

She enrolled at the Quebec School of Fine Arts but was not satisfied with the answers given to her regarding modern art. She left her studies before the end of the program.

Following an enlightening meeting with Paul-Émile Borduas, she joined the group of ″automatistes″ in 1946. Shortly thereafter, she exhibited her work for the first time at the Librairie Tranquille and then a second time with her friend Jean-Paul Mousseau. She then started being noticed by the art world.

In 1953, she left her husband René Hamelin and then, alone with her three daughters, moved to France. She stayed there for 13 years, most of which were spent in Clamart, a suburb of Paris where she rented a house and set up her studio. This was a very profitable time. She established herself as an artist and exhibited her work all around Europe.

Her meeting with Michel Blum, a glass artist, was a turning point in her life. Working with glass allowed her to fully explore light and colour, which were the foundation of her paintings. She partnered with the firm Superseal of Saint-Hyacinthe and perfected a technique where she built walls of light by inserting coloured glass plates between two walls of transparent glass.

She devoted herself intensely to working with glass. Her first glass mural was seen at Expo 1967 but it is the mural she created for the Champ-de-Mars metro station which had all Quebecers singing her praises. Several public buildings acquired her glass art: the Granby Court House and the Trois-Rivières Hospital just to name a few. Churches and government buildings have also been decorated by her imposing and luminous glass walls.

Marcelle Ferron was part of all the ″automatistes″ exhibitions, namely at the retrospective unanimously acclaimed by the critics which was entitled ″Borduas and the Automasistes″ at the Grand Palais of Paris in 1971. Her body of work was presented in Europe and in the United States in several group exhibitions such as the ″Exposition des Surindépendants″ and the Salon des Réalités nouvelles in 1956, the ″Antagonism Exhibition″ at the Louvre in 1960 and at the Modern Art Museum of Paris in 1962 and 1965. Her paintings were the object of over thirty special exhibitions in Quebec and in Canada as well as in Paris, Brussels and Munich. In 1970, the Montreal Contemporary Museum presented a retrospective of her work, an initiative which was repeated in 1972 at the Canadian Cultural Center of Paris.

Marcelle Ferron was the first woman to receive the Province of Quebec’s Paul-Émile Borduas award in 1983. Marcelle Ferron is also a recipient of several awards and grants such as the Canadian Arts Council grant (1957), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts award (1960), the silver medal at the Sao Paulo Biennal in 1961, the Philippe-Hébert award from the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste (1976) and the National Order of Quebec in 2000. She died on November 20, 2001 in Montreal. Her work can be found in several Canadian public collections, namely at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Quebec Museum in Quebec City, the National Gallery in Ottawa, the Montreal Contemporary Art Museum, the Canadian Arts Council Bank and the Stedelijk in Amsterdam.