FORTIN, Marc-Aurèle : 1888 - 1970

Slide cursor on images...

Marc-Aurèle Fortin is without a doubt one of the most interesting and talented artists of his generation. He was born in 1888 in Sainte-Rose, north of Montreal, his parents were Thomas Fortin and Amanda Fortier.

He started attending drawing classes very early on at the Monument national and then continued his artistic studies at l'École du Plateau in Montreal. A job with Canada Post brought him to Edmonton where he lived for a while and began his career as a painter.

In 1907 he attended the Chicago Art Institute to perfect his art. He returned to Quebec in 1912. During the following six years, Fortin developed a new style through his paintings, a dazzling landscape transformation.

In 1918, he took on watercolour for the first time. In 1920 his lyrical watercolours representing trees with holes made its appearance. However, he was not satisfied with the way his mastered watercolour, so he gave it up temporarily. From 1922 to 1927, he painted disproportionate elm trees with hidden houses. In 1928, pure watercolours emerged, with an exceptional quality found only with the old masters.

In 1935, after a six month stay in Europe, he returned to Canada with a whole new style. Poetry and naïveté were now replaced by the power of intense and vibrant tones. In 1936, Fortin unveiled to the art world his innovative spirit. He conceived a technique which consisted in painting on grey backgrounds ″to describe the warmth of Quebec skies″ and on black backgrounds ″to intensify the relationship between shadow and light″. In 1939, he experimented with watercolour enhanced with pencil and oil pastel. He also worked with stamps and engraved close to 60 plaques.

In 1950, the artist discovered casein (milk based tempera). He brushed paintings with a stunning power until 1955. Engrossed by disease, it was the end of his prolific career. He entrusted almost two thousand priceless paintings to his manager, several of which unfortunately ended up in the garbage. In 1959, he once again picked up his paint brushes, but he was no longer the great Fortin. The artist sketched hastily landscapes from memory with felt pens until 1967.

By 1966 he had completely lost his sight and after twelve years of suffering he died on March 2, 1970, blind and with both legs amputated.

His paintings are found in public Canadian collections in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, in the Quebec Museum in Quebec City, in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts where he has his own room, as well as in the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art.